Janek Schaefer | What Light There Is Tells Us Nothing
[for Robert Wyatt] – Temporary Residence (LP/DL)
As the tale unfolds, “in 2014, with Robert Wyatt’s blessing, Janek Schaefer was commissioned by the Sounds New Festival in Canterbury, England to compose a new, original piece of music created entirely from elements of Wyatt’s Cuckooland album. The composition was crafted using Schaefer’s custom two tone-arm ‘Twin’ turntable with effects pedals and digital collage. Originally presented at the festival as an immersive, multi-channel radio installation, his cloud of sound is a sublime meditation on the profundity of Wyatt’s work, and its transporting idiosyncrasies. Schaefer presents that piece as the title track of this new full-length opus, which is complimented with seven original compositions that not only exist in the same wondrous space, but echo its playfully poignant resonance, well after the album has ended . . .”
The luminous transparent gold record opens with the title track What light there is tells us nothing [for Robert Wyatt]. It’s a shimmering, ghostly atmosphere, with underpinnings of vinyl static overlain within a dazzling melodic mix of drones. The gentle, scintillating roar of ocean waves overlap with electronic counterparts repeating the motion, and therein lies a certain urgency, a longing between the layers. It’s an emotional recording that whispers with a yet determined impact, but a load of manipulated quietude.
Later the track takes a few left-hand turns with a slick jazzy loop that’s as dizzying as it is lulling. Schaefer makes no excuses for his restrained impulses, instead he designs a moving walkway dedicated to contemporary fusion, and the hereafter. Throughout I get this suspenseful sensation, as if something profoundly peculiar is going on under the hood, like a puppet without a master. Not to say this doesn’t have the gauge of near absolute precision, there only seems to be an invisible spirit guiding the events. These twenty-one minutes are full of voluminous curves and sophisticated range, and trembles with an affable reverberation ’til the very last second.
On the flipside is Tree at the end of the world that opens with spoken word in search for a golden fleece to the call of a sensitive harp that tingles away at the eardrums. It’s an eerie setting, the spatial considerations are thus we are smack dab in the center of a void of sorts. It’s not an over dark space, just more suspense, like the other shoe might drop anytime. And from this fairly low grade drone comes some vague industrial collision that is audible from a distance, but grows slowly closer, edging in on an otherwise unbroken territory, whirring with the outcry of a whipping Winter wind. The foreground showcasing a pleasant melody and charming birds singing. The idyllic vs. the foreboding, adjusted only by some quirky samples that seem to toot large horns as if some aristocrats have decided on opening the royal castle gates temporarily for the commoners. It shouts an uncertain hope.
The remaining six short tracks range in length – all under five minutes and continue a theme that blends a sleepy and abstract fairytale (Round in circles) with a particular patina on the olde wax (ie: hiss, static, pop). The feel of ‘your wish is my command’ is floating for observation, bloated by bulbous elongations, and a certain indignant set of odd hiccups. Corah I and Corah II are cut-up to sound like a middle eastern theme and a broken record, but comes off like a contemporary electronic polka, and indigenous chant, respectively. Schaefer has also sensitively blended ambient with orchestral, and thrown in a side of tongue-in-cheek for good measure. The repetitious Corah III sounds like an outtake from samples used to bring Fatboy Slim to short-lived fame. And the ending just floats away like leaves drifting into the city streets, into the gutters, creating their own organic dance, eventually decomposing to a fine dust. Mr. Wyatt be proud. A stunner.