Jan Jelinek, a.k.a. Farben (Klang), a.k.a. Gramm (Source) has released one of 2001's best electronic full-lengths under his own name for the Berlin-based ~Scape label. Entitled Loop-Finding-Jazz-Records, Jan Jelinek has successfully captured the buzz of the German, minimal techno/dub sound in a way that recontextualizes sample-based music, borrowing from past improvisations and creating new ones. At the height of the glitch zeitgeist, Jan Jelinek's unique talent stands out among the crowd, even from behind the shadow of his label-boss Pole, as one of the genre's grooviest examples of digital minimalism.
SK: Some tracks on "Loop-Finding" contain a less-than-obvious presentation of sampled sound. Do you find more of an interest in deconstructing those old jazz recordings, or in presenting that sound in a new, contemporary context?
Jan: I like both ways of working. I think the method of deconstruction always follows a purpose of renewing a context. The idea of sampling is comparable with a deconstruction method. It seems that samplers were only developed for this reason, and when I produced the Loop-Finding album, I reflected on how influential the sampling method was for the last ten years of cultural industry.
I think, in this process, the original definitions of music genres/categories were softened and new standards were generated by the sampling-method, and its sound standards. Jazz also has a specific sound ... its not just a genre that is describable as improvisation. Everybody can recognize an unfiltered sample of a jazz-record in a hip-hop track, although the sample can't reproduce the improvisations of the musician.
Nevertheless, these kind of tracks are called crossovers. I wanted to put this 'phenomena' one step backward, or on a more abstract level. I transformed the sound, so the soundsources lost their references. I was interested in the results and how people would react when they hear (not in the music, but in the press), that i have worked with jazzsamples....
SK: It's not really until the middle of the new cd that those old jazz sounds become recognizable, as when that nice 'vibe' sound becomes apparent on both "they, them" and "them, their". I feel it succeeds in updating that sound/style within a modern context, in a similar approach taken by A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul. Are you a fan of their jazzy approach to hip-hop?
Jan: Yes, of course! My first hip-hop record was 3 Feet High and Rising. I really love their humorous selection of sample sources and how they put those different sounds together...
SK: There is a unique sound that I hear in both your Farben and Jelinek music, and I find that in the overall, fluid-feel of your production. You seem to have a musical ear that goes beyond simple cut, paste, and tweak, and beyond the obvious influence of Stephan Betke. Do you play any traditional instruments, and have you utilized that talent on any of your records?Jan: Thanks for your compliments. As a teenager I played bass, but for only a very short period of time. Stefan Betke's records are not really an influence on me. To tell the truth, when I made the deal with his label, I only knew his first album. I think the specific sound of Pole records is also a specific sound for the end of the 90's. A lot of musicians started with this crackle/glitch sound, without knowing each other. It's a zeitgeist phenomena, and some of these artists have gained fame and some have not. But this doesn't necessarily mean, that famous artists haven't influenced the lesser known projects and musicians.
SK: Is the difference between FARBEN-music and Jelinek-music basically that FARBEN is more rhythmic and clicky - not to mention even more minimal ... the Jan Jelinek-music on ~Scape is much fuller-sounding, and has more depth.
Jan: Yes, you're right. The ~Scape album is much fuller sounding, because there are more layers of loops, and due to the special composition idea of the Loop-Finding album. The new Farben ep will follow the Farben-sounds, and will have samples that are more recognizable.
I'm also working on a new album with downbeat tracks. It's produced in a completely different style, it's only 'cut and paste', and contains no samplers or instruments.
SK: How do you balance the technical aspects of digital software - those that are intended for use, and those aspects of it that are "pliable". Do you find an ability to go outside the user's manual when using this kind of digital, musical tool?
Jan: There are always possibilities to produce outside the user's manual, with the hardware as well as with the software. But there is difference between producing with software and producing with hardware, whereas software applications can adapt much faster than hardware to new musical developments, and the result is that "experimental sound" is fastly becoming a conventional aesthetic, just because there is fast and flexible software publishing - software, that is specialized in creating this specific 'zeitgeist' sound.
SK: Whom of your German contemporaries do you admire the most?
Jan: Hmmm, I'm really impressed by the work of Wolfgang Voigt (Mike Ink, Gas, etc... ). His Studio One records were a really big influence on me. I also like the music of Roman Flügel (Soylent Green, Sensorama, etc... ). Both of these artists are able to compose very abstract/digital music without losing any groove. Unfortunately, not many producers of modern electronica are able to produce groovy tracks.
SK: Do you have an interest, like Herbert for example, in adding live vocals to your music?
Jan: Unfortunately, I'm a shy guy and it's not a really good idea to start me singing ... Many producers are interested in combining some pop elements, like singing etc..., into formal, abstract electronic music. That's OK with me, but to go back to pop-music is not really what I'm looking for.
SK: How do you personally promote your music? Do you perform live, or DJ similar sounds along with yours?
Jan: I DJ sometimes, but more within the lounge context. I don't really have the technical skills for mixing, but I do perform live with a laptop. It's a cross between the new loop-finding album and the Farben tracks. Something in the middle between a dance set and a lounge set. During the performance I show a video produced by a video-art group called visomat. ( http://www.visomat.com ) For me it's important to also work with visual elements, because a laptop concert doesn't really have a performance element or character.
SK: Will we ever see Farben on CD?!
Jan: Good question. In October or November of this year, the new Farben EP, called "Don't Fight Phrases," will be released as well as a CD-compilation with the last four Farben EP's, including "Don't Fight Phrases".
My thanks to Jan for taking the time to answer
some questions. The "Loop-Finding-Jazz-Records" full-length and the "Tendency"
12" are out now on ~Scape.
[email protected] | September 2001 | Issue 18
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