Asuna & Jan Jelinek | Signals Bulletin
When I first heard about this collaborative project between these two artists, I was slightly surprised. Japanese musician Asuna is known mainly for his organ drones that he manages by taping down keys and creating layers of chords, producing thick waves of warm sound. He has also been touring his “100 Keyboards” live sets the last few years, where he literally assembles that many keyboards on the floor, and produces an immersive improvised set that is as much sound art installation as it is live performance. So to hear that Jan Jelinek had chosen to make an album with was an interesting decision. Jelinek is known more for his grooves and experimental modular synthesis, so this pairing had the makings of something quite unusual and unexpected.
The album, released on the Faitiche label, is the product of three years’ worth of improvisations and compositions that marry Asuna’s drones to Jelinek’s pulsing synthesizers. The pair met a number of times over the course of the collaboration, and this in-person communication is apparent, more so than an internet file exchange. There is a distinct conversation going on between the two artists, expressing music together through differing vocabularies. The pieces that make up “Signals Bulletins” were recorded in Berlin, Kanazawa and Kyoto.
First track, “Relief, Pt.1” is a beautifully blurred drone that implies a feeling of meditative calm here, with the organ drones washing and smudging the combined elements into wide vistas of foggy ambience. If Asuna’s organ playing is at the forefront of this track, the following piece gives more space to Jelinek’s thrumming modular synths. “Pulsating Primary Structure” is aptly named, as it loops through arcing melodies into something where rhythm is not primarily there, but none the less is implied and felt. Building in intensity, it’s a perfect follow-up to the opening track, those bright clusters of looped notes taking the listener into spaced-out inner realms.
“Fountain” is the central track, and the shortest on the LP. A more abstract piece, it varies between modular bleeps n’ bloops and more sustained tones and somehow finds a balance between the two. It contains processed field recordings that seem to act as the glue between disparate sounds, and elsewhere Jelinek’s samples become looped and entangled in the fabric between the two players. This is evident on “How A Spiral Works”, where a slow panning drone is layered with hints of found sounds, before a pulsing bass line emerges and steers the track into ambient funk territory.
The album closes with “Blinking Of Countless Lines”, which purrs into life via an almost imperceptible low frequency drone. So low that the initial first minute is more subconsciously felt that overtly heard, before a higher sine wave gradually forms around it. This final piece is a long exploration of Asuna’s signature sound, where changes in tone take forever to reveal themselves, and a feeling of stasis is achieved. For half of the 14-minute long track, this is all Asuna, but then exactly halfway through we find Jelinek’s cascading arps enter the equation and play out the track into a psychedelic cosmic conclusion.