Jacaszek is Polish artist Michał Jacaszek who has been releasing music for the past sixteen years on a series of highly regarded labels such as Miasmah, Touch, Requiem and Ghostly International. “Music For Film” is his third release with the latter label. The album features pieces from Rainer Sarnet’s 2017 black-and-white fantasy drama November, the 2019 documentary He Dreams of Giants, and sees the Jacaszek mix in electroacoustic, modern classical, electronics and ambient styles into jaw dropping pieces.
“Since his earliest projects nearly two decades ago, Polish composer Michal Jacaszek has kept some proximity to film music. Initially, his output simply felt cinematic by nature; densely detailed electroacoustic textures on releases like Lo-Fi Stories (2004), Treny (2008) and Glimmer (2011) evoked dimly-lit worlds within themselves, vignettes of the imagination. Over time his interest in sound design and collaboration would manifest actual film projects and commissions, some of which have earned him awards. Jacaszek’s practice — an amalgamation of ambient, classical, and musique concrete — deploys field recordings, acoustic samples, poetry, and baroque instrumentation to paint pictures, oftentimes melancholic, nostalgic, tragic. His 2020 album, Music For Film, marks the naturally-occurring intersection of his identities as a solo artist and a film score artist. The collection is now sequenced and released as a single autonomic movement.
“I didn’t write to particular scenes,” says Jacaszek….That versatile purpose from the onset affords the material particular pliability in the album format; the pieces work on their own….Jacaszek’s work is that of an auteur; he has signatures that he uses faithfully and with much aplomb. Listeners can expect subtle gesture and baroque grandeur on Music For Films: soaring melodies cloaked in reverberation, delicate piano ruminations, and textural craft work capable of creating and disrupting motifs, smothering and enchanting minds.“
When you have the first listen of an album for the first time you suspend all thought and expectations. You certainly are aware to an extent the origins, themes or ideas because of the press release, but you put them to the side and listen, not as intently as you with later run throughs, but to get an idea of the sound. The thing that you notice with this first listen is how cohesive the pieces are together. When artists compile works for films they can be on some occasions quite disparate in their nature as the artist either uses a variety of instruments or different types of techniques or indeed the style of the film influences the sound of the pieces. Unless the films in question here are quite similar in nature, what you are hearing are pieces which have their own identity but still have the essence of the artist running through them.
The easiest way to note that an artist is at the top of their game or in control of where their music is going is how effortlessly good their music sounds. You know as an intent listener there is more happening beneath the surface level, but the way they pull it off to appear so simple really reveals their talents. Those who over do it in the effort stakes, those that throw all the elements in, tend to show their weaknesses quite easily. Film work is about complementing another persons vision and highlighting aspects of their story through music. The pieces on this album can easily slot into a score as easily as they do this album in it’s entirety. There is not a bolted on feeling to this release. Whether or not pieces were chosen judicially to flow from piece to piece so well I do not know, but whatever the case is, the album works impressively well.
A piece like the opener “49” in some way encapsulates the music of the album. There is minimal electronics, soaring strings, a balance of light ambient tones and a mixture of sounds being distant while others are more present. The brevity of the piece which is just over two minutes in length teases the listener who are rewarded with the works that follow. “The Iron Bridge” is an epic, dark piece that feels like it is a soundtrack to a whole short film itself as it moves through passages of haunting vocals, drone stabs of sound and space before radically changing into a dissonant noise beast towards the end with a cathartic feel. Further on a piece like “Twelve Years” contains a nice fusion of minimal electronics within a more austere modern classical framework which manages to change the shape and expectations of both styles. This is the type of piece that highlights the success of the album with Jacaszek’s fluid compositions creating so much from so little with an emphasis on minimalism and mood. It truly is a treat for the ears. “Dance” counters this with a scattershot of electronic sounds crashing through and across a string section and with bass thumps that are re-visited in “The Zone”. The scratchy sound add a grittiness to the more traditional instrument and it highlights the mournful wail of the strings that epically soar towards the end.
Things get decidedly darker with the likes of “Christ Blood Theme” and “Liina” where the minimal sound palette is used but in a dark and eerie way, creating pieces that are as mysterious as they are unsettling. “Encounter Me In The Orchard” ever so slightly returns us to the light as Jacaszek creates a piece that moves from melancholic nostalgia driven ambience through to more post rock driven modern classical meets gritty looped electronics. The piece covers both beauty and decay within the same context and is quite possibly the most driving pieces on the album. According to the artist the two November tracks – “November Early” and “November Late” were designed for the black and white film of the same name which is a dark fairy tale. Both pieces are naturally related and fit the feel with “November Late” feeling more of a redux of the “Early” piece which feels more string orientated. “Late” does have them, but the essence for me is switched more to a darker soundscape to conjure the mood rather than the strings. The final piece “The Zone” is a slow burning minimal affair which relies on electronics, tones and strings that seem to come from nowhere. While the middle section of “Twelve Years” was what I was referring to when I stated about Jacaszek creating so much with so little, this piece for almost all its entirety is a similar example. There is an almost jazz like feel to the piece crossed with a distant junk yard metallic crunch.
The real success of this album is that the pieces were recorded some ten years apart in some cases and it doesn’t feel this way. There is a consistent and cohesive feel to the album that makes each piece transition nicely in to another. With the pieces sounding the way they do there are no highlights and of course no low lights. Each piece is as impressive as the one before it and the one that follows it. This is an album that is a early standout in the best of stakes. “Music For Film” is available on Limited Pale Blue Vinyl, Black Vinyl, Cd and Digital and is very much recommended.