Janek Schaefer: Asleep at the Wheel…
My Dance The Skull

Janek Schaefer's projects never fail to be worthy of one's time and attention (his “Tri-phonic turntable” is even listed in the Guinness Book of Records), and this forty-minute, double-sided cassette release is no different. Even the indexing of the tracks reflects the imagination always evident in the sound artist's work: side two is a single, twenty-minute piece titled “Wonderland”; side one, on the other hand, splits the following into fourteen one-word units: “The world really does not have to be this way; we can change it.” For this release, a mixtape of original music derived from a large-scale installation presented at the Milton Keynes International Festival in 2010, the one-time architecture student weaves decaying vinyl samples, processed field recordings, and electroacoustic manipulations into an entrancing collage and long-form drone.

Smothered in crackled and static, side A's material oozes a peaceful, dream-like flow of the kind one might associate with the experience of driving late at night, the windows down and the early hour leaving one feel drowsy and heavy-lidded. In this case, the short pieces playing within the car wouldn't do much to help keep one awake, as they're predominantly lulling, lullabye-like miniatures designed to ease one into slumberland rather than prevent one from nodding off. At one point, the calm is disrupted by a sudden flourish of strings, after which a dusty song rises from murky oceanic depths followed by a plaintive guitar ballad. In contrast to the multi-varied, channel-surfing design of the first side, “Wonderland” settles into a dreamstate of drone-like shimmer for much of its ride, its ecstatic, trance-like character offset by the recurring interjection of highway traffic noise. In keeping with the multi-faceted nature of his work in general, the cassette release presents two very different sides of Schaefer.

May 2011