an Jelinek is a rather subtle musician, in both senses of the word. For one thing, his music depends heavily on details lost to the distracted listener, or easily drowned out by, say, the rumble of a car engine. He’s also clever—shifting aliases to suit the project at hand (Farben = soulful microhouse, Gramm = minimal techno), creating a fictional backing band, The Exposures, for his explorations of rock and pop—all in recognition of the importance context plays in consuming music. Just as most labels establish a trademark sound, and create subsidiary imprints in order to explore different directions, so too has Jelinek managed his own career.
On Kosmischer Pitch, we’re left to fend with Jelinek’s proper name, unadorned by any fictions or fakery. Concept, however, is not lacking, although the man’s subtlety is such that it’s easy to miss; the title references the “Cosmic Music” of 1970s Germany. Despite citing the celestial sounds of Tangerine Dream, Popul Vuh, and Can as influences, Jelinek reaches for an entirely different assortment of gestures in executing this otherworldly batch of tunes. As with 2001’s loop-finding-jazz-records, “influence” means more than the straight-up quotation most artists/bands seem to get away with these days; simple rehashes aren’t Jelinek’s style. In fact, Kosmischer Pitch hardly touches on the sounds commonly identified with Krautrock at all. More relevant might be the looping, layering, and attention to texture found in the work of turntable artists like Philip Jeck, Christian Marclay, and the Austrialian duo Gum—fused, as is almost always the case with Jelinek, to an underlying pulse that points back to his dancefloor-friendly roots. It’s not surprising that he would find traces of a cosmic infinite in the hypnotic revolutions of these contemporary, vinylcentric styles; what is surprising, however, are the revelations one stumbles upon when sussing out the Krautrock connection.
The steady beat of dance music works here like a heart. As with humans, the heart isn’t visible, but you always feel its pulse—it keeps things going as various extremities dangle veils of static and emit intoxicating melodies, all gently swaying around a confident, propulsive central point. Kosmischer Pitch somehow feels fuller than previous Jelinek efforts; the careful crafting of every hiss and pop is still evident, but it exists here as a complement, an element, instead of largely being the focus as on loop-finding-jazz-records. Perhaps a result of his fruitful collaboration with Australian jazz combo Triosk, Jelinek brings recognizable instruments out of their abstracted exile (whether they’re sampled or not is quite beside the point). The aptly named “Vibraphonspulen,” for example, layers waves of grainy crackles and reversed loops around meandering vibraphone notes tastefully dressed in shimmering reverb. On the following track, “Lithiummelodie I,” the waves static are pushed to the foreground, enhanced this time by stuttering guitar notes and a blur of jungle noises, drowsy alarms, and whirling cartoon spaceships; the disorientation is a sublime, mellow euphoria not unlike dangling on the verge of sleep after a long but successful day. The striking use of these human (albeit usually fractured and obtuse) instrument samples lays bare the link between the boundary-stretching work of the Cosmic musicians and the wonderful homage Jelinek has created.
The real impetus behind the “interstellar” explorations of the Krautrockers was a desire for freedom—chiefly musical freedom, although given the postwar German climate, a political subtext certainly played a role. What could be more human? Even Kraftwerk, with their strict mechanistic agenda, had an undeniably hot-blooded pulse at their core (their significant impact on early hip-hop bears this out). In building on his predecessors’ legacy, Jelinek captures the human elements—curiosity, creativity, open-mindedness, enthusiasm—that made 1970s Germany such a fertile musical locus. Simple imitation would have been insufficient; the sonic signifiers of “Krautrock” are irrelevant. It’s the spirit that counts, here on earth or way out in the farthest reaches of the cosmos.
Reviewed by: Ethan White
Reviewed on: 2005-11-03