Derek Piotr – Raj

Derek Piotr - Raj

On ‘Raj’, the third release from Poland’s Derek Piotr, the music featured throughout is a very vocal set of experimental and beat oriented compositions that draws much of it’s content from the voice which is processed and arrange, sometimes acting as a part of the beat itself.

This is my first introduction to Piotr’s music but before I began this review I went back to his previous two releases, ‘Agora’ and ‘Airing’, both of which show Piotr’s subtle but nevertheless, progressive movement through his vocal practices and the digitalized aura that at all times surrounds his work, that being his heavily processed but otherwise organic approach to the broad genre that is electronic music. Throughout Piotr’s previous releases it is apparent that his music has always been hard to pin down and on ‘Raj’ it is even more difficult. In a moment of harsh glitching and hot digital distortion (Spine, Grave)  I want to call it noise, during the bits of eclectic beat-oriented madness (‘Amendola’) I am reminded of dub and minimalist techno, throughout the menacing atmosphere that fills the album I want to call it dark ambient, and even then there are so many other genre’s one could tack on to ‘Raj’ yet there is no single point in time on this album in which any of the aforementioned genre tags could fully describe it. With all of that said, Piotr’s third entry is an undoubtably complex effort, brimming with abstract beats, unexpected shifts in direction, and unusual song structures that can be as uninviting as they can be accessible.

Musicians, particularly electronic musicians of Piotr’s kind have always expressed some interest in the manipulation of the voice and the use of it as an instrument but it hasn’t been until recently, within the past few years that is, that this vocal processing, this sound shaping of the voice has become a seen and used by musicians as a tool for creating beats, melodies, and song structures. Musicians like James Blake, Vladislav Delay, and AGF (whom Derek Piotr has collaborated with) can all be heard using vocals as the primary instrument, alongside synths and the whir and glow of the computer in the post-digital age.

Unlike many electronic musicians, Piotr does not so much work within the perimeters of electronic music as much as he exploits them. The otherwise polished sheen of digital music becomes distorted; ripped free from its most “proper” uses. You can hear the static glitched out synths, pitch shifted tones, and chopped up beats all moving at varying speeds, and Piotr’s own disheartening vocal embellishments that are arranged in a rather eerie way over the industrial, menacing soundscape that fills this album. The minimalist compositions and echo of the cold beats remind me of Andy Stott’s two 2011 EPs prior to his move toward a more polished sound on his 2012 full length.  It’s a very visual type of music and I think this aspect has been made even more apparent by the two music videos that accompany the tracks, ‘Sand Defacing All Surfaces” and ‘Grave’.

Piotr’s constant vocal manipulations paired with the desolate digital atmosphere shows a lot of ambition and potential but I do feel like there are many times where these elements come off as more of a burden for the listener than a unique aspect of his work. The vocal manipulations become especially grating along with the repetitiousness of the albums tracks. I found myself thinking it would be nice to hear Piotr’s own raw voice, removed of the guise of his editing skills. While individually, most of the tracks aren’t something you would listen to as independent pieces the album does pick up on that aspect in that, holistically it works very well, perhaps because the music is so conscious of what it is, even without an established concept.

The tracks are minimal, bare, stripped down, skeletal, and sometimes repetitive; there is a strain of despair and desolation that runs throughout each track. There are moments on this album where this moodiness works much to Piotr’s advantage in that it leaves me feeling unease, never feeling content or comfortable in knowing where the next track or sudden shift in direction might take me; never a moment where I felt like I knew what was going to happen next, which proves to be one of the best aspects of this piece of music by the end of the album. In the end, as experimental and impenetrable as ‘Raj’ may initially sound, there are many moments interjected throughout where the album can feel very accessible, even for audiences unfamiliar with Piotr’s unorthodox approach to electronic music.

Have a look at the videos that accompany two tracks from the album:

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Overall Rating: 6.8

Favorite Tracks: ‘Flow Through Light’

Recommended: AGF, Vladislav Delay, Andy Stott

Released: 26 February 2013


-Tyler Thompson

Jahktute – A Record of Things Gone

Jahktute is a recording artist whose sound ranges from the extreme shrill noise heard on previous albums such as ‘Epwell‘ to quieter collage-like recordings that are sparse in sound.

I’ve always had a soft spot for noise; the intensity and abrasives of it can, at times, bring us back to a reality of life that we often seek to get away from or it can make us feel alienated bringing us into a new world of creative and vast soundscapes. Perhaps the most captivating part of noise is not the audible aspect but what it means to us conceptually; the idea of making these common parts of our life seem alien, to evoke emotion or tell a story through the juxtaposition of raw sound as it may be heard in everyday life, unfiltered or restrained by the use of traditional instrumentation but instead inspiring experimentation and often times an unconventional means of execution to produce a piece of music that is as original as it is unreproducible. When we hear noise in it’s commonplace, where it belongs, it does not bother us but when stripped of all of our other senses but sound, when noise becomes the focus of a situation, in this case looked at as a piece of music it suddenly becomes capable of evoking many different emotions and whether the feelings we pull from it were intentional or not the fact remains in both cases, noise is inescapable and Jahktute makes use of this reality via use of sometimes harsh electronic feedback and collages of sound combined with recordings of people talking, cars passing, birds chirping, and a variety of noises that lie hidden outside of our subconscious with this 11 track collection of varied minimalist noise.

The first two tracks are much quieter, relying on a minimalist approach with small movements of sound; what at times appears to be recordings of old machinery attempting to finish what may be it’s last dying task, sheets of metal clashing together, bottles clanking together, people chatting with each other, low-end rumblings that ominously flow beneath the foreground amongst a slew of other unsettling noises. The sounds are often sparse yet spontaneous; at times noises will meander about before erupting into a cataclysm of abrasiveness. ‘Road Lines’ features more of these sonically intense factors as shrill high pitched metallic noises and what sounds like pieces of metal and glass being scrapped against each other make their way across highly compressed low end rumblings which continue into ‘Symphony pt. 2’. Although the focus of the sound is mostly combinations of grating noise and field recordings other forms of noise are introduced into the mix, an example being ‘I Found it Underground’ which although brief, makes use of rich and dark piano chords that are allowed to linger moments after they are played where the track ‘Of meanings’ provides the listener with a deep melancholic drone which makes for a very different feeling of unease that the noise on the rest of the album just can’t accomplish as well. These two tracks made me want to hear more of what Jahktute can create using a more atmospheric approach to noise and although I enjoyed their inclusion they just felt out of place regardless of the additional variety they add. As the album continues the inclusion of field recording becomes continuously more involved playing a major role in telling something of an audible story encouraging a disconnect between the origin of the sound and what is being heard. The listener is left to interpret these naked sounds without the visual imagery of what is creating them, the same kind that allow us to feel comfortable with them naturally.

Jahktute’s ability to pull a blindfold over the eyes of the listener is uncanny, his music forces the listener to remain attentive leaving one visual impaired yet sonically more alert to the events that are transpiring within his recordings but at the same time even with all of the variety that is offered here I did feel that there were moments on this release that just could not hold my interest. Seeing as the approach on ‘A Record of Things Gone’ is more moderated than that of previous releases in that there tends to be more control in terms of the placement of noises on this recording I found that it either wasn’t minimal enough for me to feel completely involved, to feel completely engrossed in what has been constructed and when more sounds were introduced it was not spontaneous or chaotic enough.

I feel like where ‘A Record of Things Gone’ lacks is not so much the execution of the material, the individual tracks but that the release acts more as a compilation of interesting sounds, either found or created to make something of an emotive collage rather than something more concise. While some tracks do work well with others some, although enjoyable just feel out of place. While I was not necessarily compelled by what I heard I do feel like what is here can provoke one to ask questions, think, or feel emotion and in that it succeeds because even if it were negative is that not what this kind of noise seeks to achieve, that being a response as simple as questioning the music itself?

Overall rating: 6.0

Favorite Tack: ‘I Found it Underground’, ‘Of Meanings’

Recommended: Choose to hear it.

Released: 20 February 2012

Links: Stream ‘A Record of Things Gone’