JAN JELINEK with NAW, AKUMO and ETHER MANN at the Drake Hotel Underground (1150 Queen West), Saturday (September 23). $15 advance, $20 at the door. Rating: NNNNN
Berlin-based producer Jan Jelinek rivals Madonna as the champion of personal reinvention.
His work under the alias Farben evoked a kind of soulful tech-house, and as Gramm he churned out minimalist techno. Released under Jelinek's name in 2001, Loop-Finding-Jazz-Records deconstructed old jazz records into discrete little sounds subtly arranged into hypnotic loops, and for La Nouvelle Pauvreté he invented an imaginary band that allowed him to move through a wider variety of impressions of various genres.
Most recently he took on Krautrock with 2005's Kosmischer Pitch (all on the ~scape label), but already he's talking about moving away from those ideas. Now he's embracing techniques developed over the past year collaborating and improvising with actual musicians (like Australian jazz band Triosk) rather than just referencing them.
"In the past, I'd reduce my samples down to just a timbre, if that makes sense. I'd filter away everything else, leaving only the texture and tone of the source. These days, though, I'm not really interested in sampling other people's music. I feel I've gone as far as I can with that. I got tired of it, and it seemed like the vocabulary that came with that approach had been exhausted. On the last album I was sampling myself playing various instruments.
"Right now, I like to compose very fast and I'm much more into improvisation. I have a new album coming out this fall that's all improvised. I had to make a lot of compromises - some moments work really well and others maybe not as much, but for me it's interesting after working with sequencers for so long. This stuff has nothing to do with club music; it's more like drone music."
Fans hoping for a return to clubbier sounds shouldn't hold their breath. While Jelinek refuses to say it'll never happen, the appeal of what initially brought him into the world of producing has faded greatly.
"I came from the dance music side in the beginning. With Farben, I was trying to produce house music but wasn't really able to. I don't really see myself going back to that. The problem is that there aren't any new options - dance music is only referencing it's own history these days. It's gone retro, whereas it used to be avant-garde."