'Alone at last' Janek Schaefer A collection of commissioned compositions 1997 - 2007 CD
Sirr.ecords Portugal. 27th March 2008 [SIRR 0031]
.....Buy it here!
'Alone at last' is a studio album, written over the first decade of Janek's career as a composer, sound artist, and musician. Each of the eight tracks is a response to an invitation to write a piece of music for a compilation CD or installation. The source sounds are produced using location recordings and manipulated vinyl, which are simply processed through his collection of foot pedals & mixing desk, and then assembled on screen. Anamnesis - refers to the ability of sound to trigger mental images in our minds eye. Each new series of images is specific to each of us - and they are all uniquely generated and framed by these evocative compositions.
The CD is housed in an elegant 100% black jewelcase with an 8 page black & white booklet of Janek's photography.
With thanks to all who commissioned the pieces:
Lawrence English, Martijn Hohmann, Yannick Franck, Philippe Petit, Colin Fallows, Philip Blackburn, Denis Boyer, The Urban Salon, and Sirr.ecords.
Special thanks to Catherine who has been such a supportive listener from the very beginning.
Track listing :
01. Alone at last [5.00] > play sample MP3
Composed for a symposium in Tasmania on the theme of Isolation:
'On Isolation' CD [::Room40::, Australia]
02. come on up... [19.00] > play sample MP3
Sound & Projection installation for a tiny listening room with a 3 seater Chesterfield sofa:
Geluidpost Gallery [Lookal01, The Netherlands]
03. Scarlett Arrives [5.00]
Composed the week my first child was born, at home, in front of the fire, under the christmas tree:
'Idioscapes' CD [Idiosyncratics, Belgium]
04. Vasulka Vauban's 'A day in the Good Life' [10.00] > play sample MP3
Composition for a compilation of experimental electronic musicians:
'BiP_HOp Generation Vol 7' CD [BiP_HOp, France]
05. End of Hope & Glory [1.00]
Live collage using a 'Land of Hope and Glory' 78 shellac for a CD on the theme of Hope:
'Hope' CD [Audio Research Editions, UK]
06. All bombing Is Terrorism [11.33]
Produced using 5 loop pedals playing sounds from the Henry Cowell/Leo Theramin 1930's tape loop instrument recreated online by The American Composers Forum:
'The Art of The Rhythmicon' CD [Innova, USA]
07. Boulevard Peripherique [10.00] > play sample MP3
Composed for the French fanzine Feardrop, partly using the soundtrack from the French film 'Alphaville':
'Feardrop 13' CD [Feardrop, France]
08. Ever Ending Story [1.00]
Created using the Tri-Phonic Turntable for my first live concert, in a courtyard outside Stock/Aitken/Waterman's recording studio,
Tri-Phonic Revolutions party, 14th July 1997 [The Urban Salon, London]
Running time : 1 hour - Produced at the audiOh! Room - Artwork by Miguel Carvalhais.
With somebody like Janek Schaefer, who is known to travel a lot, the last thing you would expect from him is a CD called 'Alone At Last' Or perhaps, despite all his travels, he likes to be alone? Either way, I don't know. What I do know is that a lot of his music is purpose made, i.e. he is commissioned to do specific pieces for specific events, places or installations. Usually these are pieces which are heard there and then, and never here and now. They lie around in his archive, collecting dust. That is: until now. 'Alone At Last' compiles eighth of these pieces, composed between 1997 and 2007. Unfortunately that's all the information that is given on the cover. Not the where, how, when or any other relevant information. That is a pity of course, but you could also think that it is of no more importance. That was that, this is now. The positive attitude: be glad what you have and not what you don't have. Each piece has a picture in the booklet (especially the one for 'Scarlett
Arrives' is very funny - but hey I like children) that also not always gives us a clue. 'Alone At Last' may serve as an introduction to the work of Schaefer to those who need one (the die hard fans surely have this already). Schaefer takes every day sound - field recordings - of whatever nature and transforms them into pieces of music. He does that to such an extent that the 'original' field recordings have disappeared and what remains is, quite curious in these eight pieces, a highly 'drone' and 'ambient' piece of work. Schaefer works the mood here. I couldn't help, while hearing this, thinking of Main - with whom Schaefer recorded a CD as Comae a long time ago. The same subtle processing, taking the musique concrete into an entirely new realm - at least for musique concrete that is - the form of ambient music. Four of the pieces are long, perhaps the disc is a bit long altogether [63mins]. With six tracks the picture would have been equally clear, even though the final piece 'Never Ending Story' is short, and should be included. That aside, Schaefer deliveres a great disc, I think, of highly subtle music that should win him new fans and pleasantly surprise the old. (FdW)
The Wire [UK]
Composed in response to invitations over a ten year span, Alone at last is nonetheless as coherent as it is rewarding. The London based artist's sources include innumerable records, some played on his notorious Tri-Phonic Turntable, and field recordings that have been layered and processed with effects pedals, computer and mixing desk to create pieces that establish a heightened sense of place and time. The titular opening track sets temporal and spatial coordinates by contrasting sheets of rain against a tin roof, with individual drips dropping into buckets below - the listener is inside - most of the water is outside, and everything is fine right now. Looped clarinets flecked with groove grit, loom in the mix, further imparting a sense of immediacy.
Schaefer works with a broader time span on the 19min "Come on up...". It mixes a sequence of dense, droning keyboard and orchestral samples with steps echoing down a hallway with sexually charged Spanish TV dialogue recorded in his hotel room, and a flamenco record that he played at the nights gig. Like most hotel rooms, it could tell any number of stories.
Almost as long, "All Bombing Is Terrorism" highlights another aspect of Schaefer's music. The title is strident, but the music is not. Composed entirely with tones obtained from an online version of the Rhythmicon, an early electronic keyboard, it is a lovely study of gently abraded, drifting tones. Who thinks about anything but self-defence when they're being smacked upside the head? By paring a sonic space that invites contemplation with a message that bears consideration, Schaefer opposes violence non-violently, and applies attractive sound art to sterner purposes.
Cyclic Defrost Magazine [Australia]
The compositions cobbled together as Alone At Last were originally installation works and thus derive from a confined and limited performing space and time. Wrenched out of this context, and without extensive linear notes to fill in the blanks, the work presented here seems of an altogether different sort, estranged as it is from its own social function and historical value.
Perhaps the title is ideal. Pried from their respective shells, the works are no longer so much invested and thus obligated to signify; they float, are brought closer, offered up to one’s stereo, and, either through habit or concentration, are subject to scrutiny, both in terms of their individual segments and how, in various ways, they fit together to form a whole.The intense liberation of these compositions, restrained at first and then suddenly thrown into the air, comes along quite well. Pieces want for nothing. The opening selection is aglow with the sound of rain and dried insects rustling against each other in the green ambient air of evening. Numerous other tracks are also painted with recognizable particles, and appear, at least during the opening movements, as strangely orderly and tranquil in mood.Always, though, what for the time being suggests the glade of a swarming landscape soon proves ready to hurl itself into chaos. “Come On Up” does as much, as feet stomping up a stairway and an animated dialogue from a Spanish television program give onto feathery tones that sustain a hovering sense of abstraction for most of the tracks nineteen minutes. Toward the end, though, details emerge from the pieces hayfield simplicity: thrumming orchestral and keyboard samples of a metallic sheen grow more prominent, jostling and colliding as they unfurl an eerie mournfulness laden with decorative electronic trills and fidgety figures.As the tonal palette is vastly extended and the swathes of tones cluster and mingle to feverish effect on the aforementioned track, Schaefer as a composer remains noticeably breezy and unruffled, upholding an orderliness and clear, ingenious progression, and finally dotting all of the i’s and tying the loose strings together in a resolute manner. Owing to this strident approach and exquisitely calibrated judgment, the shimmering, stately cascades of high-frequency tones found on other compositions succeed in absorbing the listener, just as in other places it ensures they are rejected or otherwise rearranged. Alone At Last is thus not without its own coherence; Schaefer’s musical masks feed off each other and establish a setting that is both old and new.
Polish-Canadian artist Janek Schaefer returns to record stores: Out now on Sirr Ecords, „Alone at last“ collects a string of commissions realised for various occasions. With material ranging from 1997 to 2007, it captures the many faces of the first decade of Schaefer's career as an artist and composer. While Schaefer's working methods have remained all but the same over these years – feeding environmental sounds, field recordings and manipulated vinyl sources through a string of amplifiers and effect pedals – his output is marked by a remarkable eclecticism, both in musical terms and with regards to his concepts: The title track was „composed for a symposium in Tasmania on the theme of Isolation“, while „come on up“ is a „Sound & Projection installation for a tiny listening room with a 3 seater Chesterfield sofa“. The closing „Ever Ending Story“ harks back to the days of his first concert, recorded at walking distance to the infamous Stock/Aitken/Waterman studio. The booklet to „Alone at last“ features black and white photography by Janek Schaefer and documents his interest in anamnesis and the synaesthetical qualities of sounds.
Stylistically, „Alone at last“ places great emphasis on organic movement and on detail. Both „Vasulka Vauban's 'A day in the Good Life'“ and „Boulevard Peripherique“ have many different layers of sound on offer and allow the listener to observe each sonic object in its full cycle of attack and decay. The aforementioned title piece, meanwhile, combines sounds of nature with blissfully chiming drones to create a charming musical still life, constantly in motion yet always changing.
Currently working as an artist/sound designer/musician/visiting lecturer and composer from the audiOh! Room in London Janek Schaefer has been one of the few contemporary composers to be embraced both by the sound art scene and the new music crowd (his first album was album of the week in the Guardian). His name can also be found in the Guinness Book of Records, thanks to the 'Tri-phonic Turntable' being listed as the 'World's Most Versatile Record Player'.
Touching extremes [Italy]
Ever since the man’s music was heard for the first time in these quarters, Janek Schaefer was reputed as one of the most capable collectors of gathered memories, touching the right nerves in that practice of recall that somehow manages to methodically plant uncertainties in the mechanics of human improvement. “Alone at last”, which comes in a completely black jewel case - no artwork, no notes, totally unrecognizable if you don’t open it - is “a collection of commissioned compositions” recorded between 1997 and 2007. It’s quintessential Schaefer, with the addition of field recordings to his usual array of nostalgia-inducing vinyl artifacts, whose revolving seems to approximate the existential routine of cycles that, in the end, are exactly the same. Rich and poor, intelligent and stupid, thin-skinned and detached: perhaps the secret of life lies in accepting, once and for all, that we have to coexist with different levels of growth. Schaefer’s vision portrays the sudden change and the deluded hope with responsive concurrences of aural chimeras, finding the maximum level of accomplishment in pieces such as “A day in the good life” and the truly breathtaking “All bombing is terrorism”, lethargic gloom enhanced by looping materials and impalpable harmonic auras. As fine an introduction as any of this artist’s albums to start immersing the essence of your persona in a flux of destabilizing, yet wondrous looks at the past - and, who knows, maybe also at a not so radiant future.