Jeph Jerman and Tom Cox — if/when
if/when comes housed in a compelling handmade box containing mushroom prints, the cd itself, and various organic matter. A profitable collaboration that involved Tom sending various recordings to Jeph who then reconstituted and playfully juggled them into their individual selves. I highly recommend looking inside this box as the cd plays itself out, as, to me, the box acts as a microcosm of Jeph’s milieu.
Whilst attempting to describe what I have heard on this disc, my grasp of words, such as it is, seems all too misleading. So I fall upon images and visual analogies that I hope might shed some light upon how I feel about this release.
The first two tracks align themselves to visual scenes, presented differently each time I listen through. Images of invertebrates burrowing in the soil beside a constant stream of traffic, time-lapse footage of plants growing (with the sound of the film crew left in the mix), walking into a restaurant and sticking one’s head into a deep fat fryer where the sounds heard blend together, slowly vying for autonomy, and the food in the fryer scratches and pulls against the sides of the machine creating various internal soundworlds. The next two tracks bring to mind the previously mentioned microcosms once more, observing lilliputian aeolian villages where the vehicles are blown along by the wind, creating all manner of scratches and whistles, and peering through the window of Andrei Tarkovsky’s model house in The Sacrifice, as if sound emanates from the reflected light that catches your ears.
if/when is full of inspired auditory strata. It is a world of quasi-communication where energy harnessed is never dormant, but under a constant state of calibration.
Field recordings, auditory documentation, whatever you wish to call them, have come a long way in the last decade, and if listening to if/when evokes the precarious motion of stepping from rock to rock, observing the mosses underfoot, then the first two tracks of @stuk remind me that it’s all too easy to forget everyday objects and their inherent sonic worth.
Jeph Jerman — @stuk
I consider achieving a satisfactory and interesting recording — plucked from the mundane — to be equally impressive to, say, the surface tension of a frozen pond or Stag Beetles a metre underground. Within the latter it is more about presuppositions, careful thought followed by minimum action, the former, the process as a whole. It can be very easy for artists to overlook such things — holding firm to the belief that there is nothing new to be found. The first track is a recording of a radiator in Jeph’s room, where we can hear vehicles drive past, intermingling with the interior of the pipes, creating a bleak sense of space coloured in white. The second recording (which can easily be mistaken for that of the first, if you’re not paying attention) is of the electric meter in Jeph’s room. It resides in a similar atmosphere to that of the first, but there is a lighter and more transitory feel to this track. It brings to mind the railroad imagery of Emile Zola’s La Bete Humaine — its twists, cranks, seeping mist, a more foreboding domain.
The last track on this cd is a solo live performance by Jeph. The track starts abruptly and leads the listener to believe that the concert has already started; such is Jeph’s polyrhythmic ability that one can mistakenly confuse the conscious shuffling of an audience for one person. Having heard (sadly never in the flesh) a large number of Jeph’s live performances with natural objects, I have found it can become somewhat tricky to find large differences between many of them. But therein lies the task. Studying these events reveals a whole manner of sound suspended within the larger and more obviously recognisable sounds.
Metaphors and linkages aside, it is also simply a pleasure to forgo the analysis and enjoy the playfulness of this particular artist.