Pitchfork - November 7, 2001
Reviewed by Paul Cooper
The second release for Substractif, the headphone/deep-listening subsidiary of the Canadian avant-garde label Alien 8, couldn't have set the roster up better. Tomas Jirku's Immaterial looks to the near imperceptible for inspiration. Though not widely recognized, Jirku's recording career has neatly suggested that he would soon release a genre-defining set.
Having worked out his M.O. on the MP3 site NoType, Jirku released his sophomore album, last year's Variants, for Alien 8. That album collected a month's worth of clicks, pop, and righteous dub rhythms. The step from the suggestive Variants to the blatant club styles of his next release, Sequins, was a easy one. Sequins, released on the doyen of the click dance scene, Force Inc, ensured that Jirku would be admired in the same light as Mathias Schaffhäuser, Wolfgang Voigt, and Thomas Brinkmann. While it's true that none of the nine Sequins tracks would make it into Sasha and Digweed's sets, I'd not be baffled to find one in Andrew Weatherall's challenging selections.
Immaterial shies away from maximum club exposure, though those mechanics are detectable. Four lengthy tracks named after subatomic particles begin the electron haze with Jirku slowly introducing classic Chain Reaction dub elements into the space. The signature tinkles, pops, and curved white noise are all abundant. Jirku maintains such immense control of these vaporous elements that his music seems to halt the flow of time, as only the finest dub can.
With such discreet and attentive sounds as these, every reaction is going to be unique. To me, Jirku is investigating the Brownian motion of dust settling or how things come out in the wash. Immaterial is fixated on these processes. Jirku puts forth little effort to make each of the four tracks distinctive, and in fact, by using the sound of running water as a segue between each, he compels the listener to treat each track as part of a greater whole. In this regard, Jirku allies himself directly with Vladislav Delay, the Finnish minimal master, whose 2000 release, Anima, was a sixty-five minute exploration of minimal rhythm on Mille Plateaux, Force Inc's even more experimental parent label.
Like Anima, Immaterial can be extremely demanding if the listener is intent on attending to each detail. While hardly an intellectual response, I've found that I've best appreciated the record by contradicting its demanding nature and treating it as an inconsequential environment. Immaterial transcends the piquant ambiguity of its title. However playfully Jirku tempts me to write this record off as inconsequential fluff, the album has a nebulous, evanescent beauty that keeps luring me back into its gaseous extent.
Substractif Records - Montreal, Canada - SUBSF02
It’s been just about one year since the release of Jirku’s debut Variants was released on Alien8 Recordings and since then he has also recorded a full length for Force Inc. He will also release 12"s and compilation tracks for various labels.
On Immaterial Jirku embodies headphone minimalism through a blend of very subtle, quiet passages constructed from field recordings, drones and stereo effects, combined with layers of his signature minimal-click dub sound. He has truly managed to create his own sound in a school that is overloaded with copycats and wannabes, although elements of what he is doing can certainly be compared to the likes of Vladislav Delay, Pole and Thomas Brinkmann.
The idea behind Immaterial was to work with fewer tracks and give them more time to develop, allowing the repetitious rhythms to really infect the listener. It includes four tracks which merge into each other, creating one solid composition with four movements.
The recording opens with a series of low-end pulses and clicks constructed from static and very gradually other layers of sound appear, revealing a constant dub/house beat that soon after disappears. Jirku teases the listener with the constant arrival of rhythm only to dissolve those sounds seconds later, until the 8 minute mark, when the piece takes on the form of very adventurous danceable minimalism. The track continues in this direction until the fourteen minute mark where it drowns itself into field recordings of a running stream until track 2, Gluon surfaces. Three-minutes into the track the beats are very evident indeed: creepy minimal dub with different field recordings weaving in and out of the track until it is over taken by the sounds of passing cars on the freeway. Track 3, Baryon, has the appeal of a lot of the classic Chain Reaction releases, not so much in terms of the actual sounds, but in terms of the great production values. Track 4, Pion, is perhaps the most adventurous of the record, operating without beats for the bulk of the time and relying on a mixture of field recordings. At times Immaterial brings to mind Monolake’s ‘Gobi Desert’ release, but manages not to fall victim to a new age vibe throughout the entire recording.
Tomas Jirku, when not producing music, is busy studying as a designer and took the time to do the artwork for Immaterial. The CD will be packaged in a gatefold sleeve with very striking photos of water in it’s three phases and will be printed on matte-cardstock paper.
released May 24, 2001
Photography and artwork by Tomas Jirku
all rights reserved