As electronic music is a virtually faceless beast, it is noteworthy when a regional breakout of excessive talent occurs, as such is the case with the current influx of Canadian artists who are taking the global scene by storm. The likes of Akufen, Tim Hecker, Deadbeat and Tomas Jirku have been using Montréal’s Mutek festival as a springboard, employing a hometown advantage to work their sonic goods to the max; ensuring that at night’s end they are taken home by the most seductive of tourists. Case in point, after opening for Thomas Brinkmann at the first edition of Mutek, Jirku was signed to Germany’s Force Inc. label to produce his Sequins disc.
Rather than sticking with an instantly recognizable regional sound and identity, each of these artists has developed their own unique voice and direction stretching out the confines of electronic music. Jirku’s 12” collaborations with Robin Judge, which were eventually compiled by Onitor as Plusism, set a precedent for the combination of abstract beats and convulsive motion. Together they produced the sounds you expected to become commonplace in your childhood Bradbury/Heinlein visions of the near future. His own work offers an entirely different perspective, leaning towards minimal techno, incorporating rhythmic glitch, ambient and even taking a potshot at cartoonish gangsta rap (as the GI Joe Killaz).
Bleak 1999 is the fifth solo release from Jirku and a return to his Canadian label of origin, No Type. The disc revolves around a medical theme, with medications (though nothing so obvious as narcotic acronyms), vital sign readings, even what appears to be a couple of chest x-rays in place of the traditional song title. This is a fair representation of its sound as Jirku’s brand of minimalism in techno has much more in common with the sounds of hospital machinery than the dancefloor.
Every track of Bleak 1999 segues together masterfully to produce a work of clinical starkness, perfectly suited for nightshift workers everywhere. The smooth static field of Glucose duplicates the hum of life support; until a distant viral code shuffles to the fore, breaking the stasis of the hum like a live wire loose in the gears. All ensuing ambience dissipates as the code is assaulted by the antibiotic Cefuroxime, cranking up the distortion with a pronounced dub-drenched beat, a la M4-M7 aka Maurizio. The onset of Haloperidol introduces a gentle off balanced scraping; not unlike a warped and dirty 78 rpm running quarter speed; smoothly building momentum till trifled upbeat Detroit synth touches break the bleak atmospherics. A respirator’s cyclic oxygen output invades the throbbing delay of Input fluid, furthering the incessant brooding aura, drawing strength from the sense of loss that permeates hospital corridors.
Throughout Bleak 1999, Jirku uses a mix of analog inventiveness and concrete ambience to produce electronic music that squeezes out of its canned genre, demanding to be studied intently for clues to the unsolved riddles of machinery.