Jan St. Werner: Blaze Colour Burn (Thrill Jockey)
Jan St. Werner is perhaps best known as one half of Mouse on Mars, but he’s also the man behind Lithops in addition to collaborating with Oval as Microstoria in the past. This is the first release he’s done under his own name, and while it’s clearly his hand at work, it does sit apart from those other projects rather distinctly. The album kicks off a new series for post-rock pioneer label Thrill Jockey, the Fiebplatter Series. Thrill Jockey describes it as “a series of genre-dismantling releases on Thrill Jockey that will encompass electro-acoustic experimentation, algorithmic elements, scored music, digital signal processing, field recordings, improvisation, public performance and graphic works. These pieces aren’t just about sound; they’re about location, structure, time, aesthetics. Stories that overlap and interact with each other.” Werner’s knack for manipulating filtered sound in bending zips and swoops is on full display here, but there is a free-spiritedness here that feels unique. “Cloud Diachroma” starts things off in style, 13+ minutes of fantastically disorienting sound design. DSP manipulations intertwine with electro-acoustic recordings into a strangely infectious creeper of a track. It’s probably my favorite of the album, but it also sets the tone well of what’s to follow. The music on Blaze Colour Burn comes from a variety of contexts. “Spiazzacorale” is split into 2 halves (not sequentially) and consists of edits of an eight-hour long performance by Werner alongside a variety of musicians, while a couple others were originally score accompaniments to visual art. But the disparate motivations behind the pieces is of no concern when listening; this flows like an organic set of ideas. Only occasionally does the spirit of the recordings undermine the quality control; in the second instance of “Spiazzacorale” (the two are split apart and out of sequence), it sounds like an amateur marching band that is as surprising as it is annoying. Otherwise the sound design of Blaze Colour Burn is consistently strong as anyone familiar with Werner’s repertoire might expect. “Sipian Organ” is a delightful ending to the album, with its unusual vocoded synth chorus and free-spirited zips and swirls of sound. The album overall reminds me of the most abstract material he released early on as Lithops, but less delicate, more sure of himself here perhaps. Not everyday listening, perhaps, but interesting stuff.