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Jason Grier – Unbekannte – CD / Digital

CD - €10.00

24bit FLAC - €7.00

16bit - €6.00

"Grier begins this record singing a simple and sweet-voiced a cappella song promising nothing: "Baby, I don't know right now", leaving us curious. He, like Lucrecia Dalt, has spent a lot of time making more conventionally-formed solid songs, but here he goes further than he ever has from straight songwriting. Almost every "song" on this record features one specific recording or field recording that is explored for a while, with a strangely pleasing way of beginning soft and gentle, and growing more and more mysterious (maybe even frightening) as time progresses. As a whole, it's like a series of captivating and mysterious short films."
– Julia Holter, Writing for Artforum International, December 2013

** Featuring vocals by Lucrecia Dalt.

For his first major studio album Jason Grier assembles a bewildering musical vocabulary acquired during his tenure as director of Human Ear Music. After working the better part of a decade as a curator moving freely between pop and experimental circles, Grier sought to put his curatorial ethos into a singular artistic statement. Within Unbekannte’s dense 35 minutes, allusions to Michael Pisaro, James Tenney, Alvin Lucier, Pan Sonic, Giancinto Scelsi, Phill Niblock, Jodeci, Woo, etc, are deployed in a sprawling post-studio framework.

“Unbekannte” is German word which means “unknown”, “unknown person”, or in a mathematical context, “variable”, or “unknown quantity”. Appropriately, the album comprises a series of lyrical settings, assembled from a year of assiduous, yet decidedly aleatoric studio sessions. Grier would offer to his engineer, his band, and himself, little more direction than “just play something melancholic while I put on this meditation record”, or “what does it sound like to cut this wire here? then here! then here!!” He commissioned hour-long cymbal solos, spun psychoacoustic tone-webs from thousands of guitar harmonics, used rewired guitar amps as sub-bass microphones, and recorded the spontaneous sizzling of snare drums placed in a sealed room beside bass oscillators set at extreme volume levels. Each session led to a uniquely gorgeous dead end, its purpose seeming to be the fabrication of an endless sequence of exotic sound objects. After a year of haphazard experimentation, it looked as if a grand theme was nowhere to be found. It was the studio album reduced to the creation of a sample library. Likewise, it was the artist eerily struck from the act of creation just at the moment when he should be fully realized. But this was, in fact, Grier’s “grand” theme: to squint right back, with a half-smile, at pop music’s faustian promise to transform introspection into self-affirming sound objects. For Grier, uncertainty is not a point of collapse, but a point of departure, and a point of return. And as such, Unbekannte is a searching critique of the studio’s alchemical powers, as much as it is an ostentatious display of those powers.

But if Unbekannte is a challenging listen, that’s not just because of its extravagant sonic pallette. Unbekannte’s real challenge is its wry exploration of the limits of certainty in love, identity, and ontology. Inspired by the concrete poetry of Helmut Heißenbüttel and Haroldo de Campos, Grier’s hyper-minimalist lyric style stretches terse, brutally ambivalent fragments of dialogue across an entire vocal track.