Philip Jeck: An Ark For The Listener (CD, Touch, September 2010)

Like the best ambient works, two minutes into this record I feel like I’ve been listening to it for aeons. I mean that in a good way: it is a testament to its immersive, timeless quality. (A few other types of music can do this too me: interestingly — to me, anyway — I get it a lot with Bob Dylan’s really long tracks, things like Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands and Desolation Row.) There’s something about Jeck’s crackly vinyl textures that makes the whole thing sound like a distant memory of something long departed. This reminds me of Gavin Bryars’ The Sinking Of The Titanic: not surprising, I suppose, since Jeck manned the decks for the Touch recording of that piece. The two works also have shipwrecks in common, as this was inspired by a verse from Gerard Manley Hopkins’ The Wreck Of The Deutschland. Filled in with a heavily processed bass guitar, this is significantly more dense; and, having no recognizable voices, it feels considerably more cut adrift from humanity. I listened to this a couple of hours ago, and still there are moments echoing around my head: one, in particular, consists of a sad little chiming melody in the foreground, and a distant lonely howl. Cracking stuff.

There are two bonus tracks on the end, unreleased live material. I’m normally too much of a rockist to go in for such things, but then Jeck is way too much of a rockist to unthinkingly chuck any old spare parts on the end of his album. These are both real treats, in particular the final number, Chime, Chime (re-rung): this appears to be a sibling to Chime Again from 2008’s Sand, and with its coruscating peals of (I think) tubular bells it provides an enchanting and decidedly more uplifting conclusion to the disc.

I bought this from Juno. They describe it as leftfield, whatever that means.

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