I first heard Tomas’ work back in 1999 when he released his first record for No Type, Immaterial, and I was one of the lucky ones who got an actual CD in the hand-made packaging. The material was all free from No Type’s site (as many of their releases are), but I wanted the real thing — to have and to hold. Since those days, Jirku has released a couple of records on different labels and participated in the first edition of the Montréal-based electronic music festival, Mutek, where he opened for Thomas Brinkmann and turned enough heads that German label Force Inc. signed him on the spot. People have been wise to the magic of Jirku’s hand in the mix and his (triumphant!) return to No Type is a nod to his roots — to the label which gave him his first break and to the minimal beat sculpture style which he started with. Bleak 1999 is a record of staggered beats, winsome ethereal melodies, and the seemingly casual interception of radio signals.
It is far from bleak and yet, at the same time, it most certainly is. The arrangements are sparse, uncluttered excursions into minimal loop-based space. The tracks aren’t heavily processed or tweaked into realms of spasmodic beat witchery. They are gentle, flowing pieces which build and layer simply, leaving the listener feeling as if they were floating in a bleak landscape — yes — but a landscape which supports them and cradles them and carries them along invisible streams. Haloperidol is one such stream, the awkward scrambling of worn machinery in the beginning of the track gives way to an endlessly drifting motion which lifts you out of your chair and floats you along.
Clindamycin is nothing more than a lost radio, drifting forgotten in a white mist, its dial tuned to the very bottom of the spectrum where only noise lives. While Clindamycin doesn’t normally give way to psychosis, in this case it does as the wash of white noise is leveraged out of the way by shards of glass beats. A lone cello weaves through the impromptu beats, the tinkling of the glass enough to make the teeth at the back of your throat hum. 3.24.93 shimmers with warm synth tones over a gentle and insistent minimal techno style beat. LiCO3 is a static interlude, a breath of wind caught in a speaker cone, while Glucose is a warm drone, a stuttering note which never quite gets moving. The note isn’t sluggish, rather it is caught like a fly in amber and all that is left is for us to watch it slowly die, the buzz of its wings circling in a slow decline.
I’m spending a little time at webmd.com as I listen to this, plugging in track names as they come up. Clindamycin. Cefuroxime. Haloperidol. Lorazepam. Tranylcypromine. There are two commonalities in the results: the drug in question either “fights bacteria in the body” or it works by “increasing the levels of certain chemicals in the brain.” Even LiCO3 was once used as a “mood stabilizer.” Music, though, doesn’t require a prescription or a visit to the doctor’s office. It’s a modern aural medication. Jirku’s recommendation for what ails you? Take a course of Bleak 1999. It’ll flush the toxins right out of you.