Morrow vs. Hajduch: Jacaszek’s Glimmer

Scott Morrow is ALARM’s music editor. Patrick Hajduch is a very important lawyer. Each week they debate the merits of a different album.

Jacaszek: GlimmerJacaszek: Glimmer (Ghostly International, 12/6/11)

Jacaszek: “Dare-gale”

[audio:|titles=Jacaszek: “Dare-gale”]

Hajduch: I first heard Polish composer Michał Jacaszek when his music shuffled onto my headphones at an ungodly early hour while walking through a very crowded airport, and it was all at once calming and perfectly fitting. Jacaszek’s compositions make moody, atmospheric ambience using a classical palette, with bowed strings, operatic voices, and chimes to construct a brooding build.

His new album, Glimmer, is his first for Ghostly International, whose ambient compilation SMM: Context featured Jacaszek alongside like-minded modern/gloom/ambient merchant (and MvsH alumnus) The Fun Years, among others.

Morrow: Though this might be misclassified as an electronic album — partly due to its affiliation with Ghostly — it’s almost entirely an ambient classical release. There’s enough digital treatment and rearrangement to warrant a partial electronic tag, but it’s otherwise a very organic album. Jacaszek wrote and recorded the acoustic-guitar and mellotron passages, and then he enlisted a number of other Polish musicians to play the harpsichord and clarinet parts. It’s all a very stirring mix, with the harpsichord, bass clarinet, guitar, and vibraphone — not to mention the washes of fuzz — creating a richness of texture.

Hajduch: Though it’s a lot more electronic than some of the albums that preceded it, you’re right: Glimmer is a lot closer to 20th Century classical composition than it is to a synthesized notion of “ambient music.” But every time the baroque flourishes bubble to the top, they get subsumed in the fuzz and gloom again. The star of this album is the dynamic range: these songs go from subdued and quiet to screaming loud. You don’t really sit back and get lost.

Morrow: I wouldn’t quite say “screaming loud,” but yeah — many songs start all soft, and before you know it, you’re deep in the mix. It’s a testament to that soft/loud dynamic, albeit one that utilizes subtlety and time instead of sharp contrasts.

The album’s inconspicuous complexity and professional performances make it a gem among ambient releases. Those factors also help explain why it’s been a bit since Jacaszek’s last release, and Glimmer was worth the wait.

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