Posts Tagged ‘Jana Irmert’

Fabrique Records – 18th June 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Berlin-based composer and sound artist Jana Irmert has approached her third album for Fabrique with a view to exploring the way in which sounds have a certain sensory aspect. There’s a way in which music touches us, not just aurally, nor emotionally: some music you really do feel. Beyond music at the louder, harsher end of the spectrum – be it electronic or more conventional in its instrumentation, this is something that is perhaps more common to experimental forms, where contrasting sounds and the shapes and textures of those sounds are more the focus than the unity of a collection of instruments for create ‘songs’.

Articulating how music makes you feel is one challenge, but articulating how music itself feels – or moreover, how the sounds themselves feel – is an immense challenge. Because writing, like any other art, can often reveal its authors limitations, however well they’re working. Every artist has their own personal limitation. Francis Bacon was unable to paint feet, for example. The greatest limitation is invariably the disparity between concept and execution, and often, for musicians, it’s articulating the sound in their head using actual instruments – or, if not articulating the sound, conveying complex emotions through the medium of sound.

Jana Irmert’s challenge here was to render one sensation through another. “I felt I wanted to get closer to the sounds, feel their structure and surface and how they contrast each other,” she says. And, during the process, her recordings yielded some quite unexpected results: “It turned out the processed sounds resulting from hard materials would often have soft and tonal qualities whereas those made from ‘soft’ materials like water or air would ultimately be of percussive or harsh and noisy character.”

The opening bars of the first piece, ‘Lament’, are unexpectedly dense and heavy, a rugged, grainy tone that grinds from the speakers before slowly tapering down to something rather more tranquil, yet draped with the weight of melancholy. Moving into ‘Against Light’, Irmert creates a much more upbeat ambience, a shimmering, shuffling stuttering of sound, and it’s gentle, but not entirely calming or comforting, like being stuck in a tractor beam, a glitching loop that affords no forward trajectory.

With the sounds of the sea, the title track initially seems like it will fulfil the description, offering something soft, soothing, immersive. But as layers build, darker sounds clunk and rumble and loom and lurk in thickening shadows.

There is a certain sense of progression over the course of the eight compositions, with more percussive sounds coming increasingly to the fore. In doing so, the album gradually moves from intangible to something altogether more substantial, its physicality developing an almost corporeal tangibility.

Listening to The Soft Bit, one feel as though one is somehow in nature, and surrounded by nature, from the clouds, and the air – invisible, yet capable of substantial force when moving as a wind – to solid objects – stones, trees, the ground beneath the feet. Listen, inhale it all in, and feel it flow.

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FAB088_front

Fabrique Records FAB073 – 17th January 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

As the press text summarises, ‘Cusp is a collection of compositions taken from the soundtrack for the film STRESS by Florian Baron. The feature-length documentary gives voice to five young veterans, their experiences and trauma’. It was never going to be light or upbeat, and immediately, the sounds emanating from the speakers are unsettling, disturbing: blasts and reverberating crashes echo all around over slow, elongated drones, and ‘It’s Happening’ washes into the slow ebb and flow surges of synth that form ‘Them or Me’.

It may be good to talk, but those of us who haven’t been there simply cannot relate, cannot compute or comprehend the meaning, the pain, the anguish. It’s a world beyond and it would be a mistake and an insult to pretend otherwise. Anything, from sympathy to empathy feels like an underestimation and an undersale, a devaluement. Perhaps it’s an act of solipsism: the suffering in the mind of another is unknowable. This renders the territory Cusp and the film it soundtracks difficult on a number of levels.

Trauma is by no means entertainment, and while I haven’t seen the film, Irmirt’s handling is impressive in its subtlety, and it’s understandable why she was awarded the German Documentary Film Music Award in 2019. The jury remarked how in her soundtrack, she ‘dissolves the boundaries between sound design and musical composition in a virtuoso and at the same time self-evident way, thus creating a sound cosmos that, through uncompromising reduction, generates brutal knowledge.’

The best soundtracks are always understated, and compliment, rather than dominate the visuals they accompany, and Cusp, which takes fragments of the soundtrack as a whole – with eight tracks, half of which are only around the two-minute mark, this is a distillation of a broader experience, and it works well.

It is dark, unsettling, but nothing is overdone. And that’s why it works.

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Jana Irmirt - Cusp

Fabrique Records – FAB060CD – 14th October 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Whatever is present, there is always an absence of something, even if the absence is of nothing. What absence ends on Jana Irmert’s debut album, which comprises six pieces created with a combination of field recordings, experimental electronic sounds, and voice, is unclear. But then, clarity is not Irmert’s objective: End of Absence is subtle, nuanced and atmospheric, a project designed to stir the imagination.

The title track opens the album with a thick bussing hum of feedback, which mutates into an eternal, mid-tone drone. The sparse beats and monotone spoken word of ‘Bagful’ sits somewhere between Young Marble Giants and Throbbing Gristle, the thunking percussion whips through the stark minimal grind. Elsewhere, on, ‘Obstacles’ a barrelling wind of white noise, burred with scraping metal-edged electronic distortion, blows into silence. Long, rumbling tones hang and swirl like mist around hisses and hums.

Irmert’s interests are the vague, irrational, less tangible aspects of existence, and these manifest in the compositions which make up End of Absence. Immense washes of sound, like tidal waves of static, crash against virtual shores on an imaginary world. drawing from a broad sonic palette, Irmert inspires an almost paradoxical sense of engaged detachment, in which the listener cannot help but bring something of themselves to complete the listening experience. In such an exercise in inclusivity, both artist and listener are fully present, and so we arrive at the end of absence.

Jana Irmert - End of Absence