A beautiful piece of refined electronica, subtlety and minimalism sprinkled with almost human warmth. Delightful and tasty, and apt for all times and moments because of its delirious lightness. The Canadian Tomas Jirku has added another fine gem to his (eclectic) ever-growing discography. No Type, an obviously underrated label, has added another fine release to its just as eclectic catalogue. (Entries on this website have included Claudia Bonarelli and Books on Tape.) And I am feeling all warm and mellow from the inside, glowing with contentedness all over. I think I finally found out, what makes a recording of electronic music in the most primary sense appealing to me: warmth. A special, soft and comforting warmth that encompasses the mind and the heart with full and rich sounds, and I don’t even care from which side of the sonic spectre they come from or what their special wave form is. If an artist manages to create an atmosphere of organic or even human appeal, that is what I am looking for. And then it is quite obvious for me to say that this special record is “my favourite electronica record” right now. Very much like Vitamins For You at the end of last year, that is going to be a record that will stay close to my stereo for quite some time and even finally make it into a kind of top list or best-of collection at the end of the year (even though I always have mixed feelings and opinions towards top lists and such, but in the end, it is something I like to read myself, so I guess I’ll provide one as well). Switch back to the music.
It all oscillates around a steady, almost monotonous bass-drum-beat that is quite muffled, like listening to your loved one’s heartbeat by putting your ear on his or her chest. Instead of being disturbed or puzzled by irritant gurgling and burping noises from within the intestines (a thing as natural as it comes), Tomas Jirku adds various layers of synthetic sounds and warm keyboards on top of that beat, which is sometimes broken into a echoing purring sound or a beautiful reverbing bass-wave, at other times starts the funky groove typically of minimal electro (e.g. on the track Glyburide). The number of layers and the variations and dynamics of the tracks differ from very minimal and sparse arrangements, which are rather at the beginning of Bleak 1999 to expanded and constructed tracks such as Input fluid in the middle of the record. Melodic lines span slowly but steadily over longish tracks, like watching clouds move or shadows crawl across a wall. At times he reduces the sonic scape provided to a clinical environment, with some white noise or radio static in the back and a peeping of a life-support-machine in the foreground, added with some human samples (check the grand Li) or backwards-looping human voices to more radio-static and erratic keyboards (check the disturbing beginning of 04.1.93). To me, those “intermissions” are quite as important as the “proper tracks”, because they put the “life” into the whole CD. They add the spice and distraction to make an album of what otherwise might be just a collection of tracks. Is that another metaphor for dailylife?
The most impeccable and intriguing feature of Bleak 1999 is the overall atmosphere of melancholia and nostalgia, like computers dreaming of a better world (less text-processing and email, more calculations on medical research and poetry). The title of the record will lead you astray in more than one way. At least I can find no bleakness on these tracks. There is a tendency towards monotony, but that has become a positive feature in the last years in electronic music and in my life in the last three months. The vibrating fundament of a life according to habits and customs is sparked by monotony, though it is more trendy to call it minimal. The tempo of the beats stays well within the realm of a calm human heartbeat or the tracks of a slow moving underground, both with synthie-drones plucked into your ears. The dynamic tension of beats drawing against and with glimmering synthie-sounds and manufactured (or would it be more appropriate to call them processed) spheres of sound, without overtly being destroyed – Bleak 1999 moves in circles of passion that is subdued by the cost of love, life and labour. Definitely a stayer with meaningful layers still to be discovered. The only remaining mysteries are those of the year in the title of the record and the titles of the tracks themselves – ranging from a simple T or R via chemical elements Ca or formulas LiCO3 to names of chemicals or enzymes Clindamycin to drugs or medicine Haloperidol to one track called Psychosis. Maybe Tomas Jirku is just a student of biochemistry or medicine in his spare time the same way other people are architects or communication-designers and spend their free time producing electronic music. That is just as well. At times, I am sure, that electronic music can use all the input and influences from the real world it can get.