Farben: Textstar

Textstar's cover design of overlaid cyan, magenta, yellow, and black shapes and process colour halftones serves as an apt metaphor for Jan Jelinek's shimmering music, which can be appreciated for both the lush quality of its component details as well as for the incredible mosaic of sound that results from their accumulation.

Textstar collects nine tracks from four Farben EPs: Featuring the Dramatics (1999), Raw Macro (2000), Beautone (2000), and Farben Says: Don't Fight Phrases (2002). Textstar is at first superficially reminiscent of his justifiably-lauded Loop-Finding-Jazz-Records where Jelinek edited millisecond-long loops out of jazz recordings from the 50s and 60s and stitched them together to create a unique form of microhouse. However, because the elements were so microscopically defined, the source materials remained unidentifiable, lending the recording an austere, hermetic aura. He deploys the samples on Textstar, on the other hand, in a more forthright manner, making the musical result more expansive and inviting than the ~scape release. It appears to be Jelinek's love letter of sorts to the 70s era of soul and disco, as he incorporates samples of strings, pianos, and flutes and references Isaac Hayes and Donna Summer in the song titles. The overall sound is romantic, deeply sensuous, and soulful. One's attention is drawn to his superb handling of sound levels, how his mix brings elements to the forefront and subliminally positions others in the background. “Live at the Sahara Tahoe, 1973,” the title taken from an Isaac Hayes album, begins in a soulful click-hop style, enhanced by cascading drone-like waves, emergent insectoid textures, and the gradual overlaying of 70s touches like high-pitched syndrum accents and flutes. In “Farben Says: Love To Love You Baby,” a gentle guitar figure and percussion accents are followed by a Milesian trumpet sample; Jelinek's trademark moiré and crackle treatments appear, constellating around the main melody lines of the trumpet and what sounds like a moog. “Beautone” boasts a gorgeous chiming melody enhanced by a restrained usage of funky glitch house elements and bell-like accents that offset the deep bass figure, and is interspersed with a swirling 70s string sample. “Silikon” is most reminiscent of Loop-Finding-Jazz-Records: a becalmed house rhythm is pushed along by a propulsive bass amidst the punctuation of glitch-like static, pops, and crackles. “Farben Says: Love Oh Love” begins with acoustic bass accompanied by percussive detail with muffled soul samples appearing as the main melodic statement. As the piece moves towards its conclusion, cymbal accents introduce heightened dynamics, and an orchestral sample accompanied by piano tinkling brings the piece to a rousing climax.

On the one hand, Farben's music is minimalistic in that a modicum of elements is woven together with the utmost clarity, but it's maximalistic because of the sophisticated buildup of sonic detail. While Textstar might conceivably be labeled 'dance' music, to do so would be to criminally misrepresent it and woefully undervalue it. Jelinek's music is subtly subversive; it doesn't sound radical in any immediately, obvious sense yet what he fashions is a nuanced, advanced music which is warm, textured, impeccably crafted, and cerebral yet sensual. It's not abrasive in any Mego-like sense but instead extends the dubby, gaseous Chain Reaction sound into a more sensual click-house style.

December 2002