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A Separation Of Being Noel Gardner , March 17th, 2020 07:52

The third album by Canada's Joyfultalk is a densely packed bundle of fun, finds Noel Gardner

People like Canada’s Jay Crocker, going by Joyfultalk here for a third album, go to vast and daunting lengths to originate new theories of music composition in an era where most write this off as unfeasible. To which people like me, reviewing A Separation Of Being as an awed layperson, concludes that the listener need not begin to understand how Crocker’s scores and calculations work to gain great pleasure from this elegant example of contemporary minimalism. If my compliments are thus backhanded, rest assured they’re also sincere.

The Joyfultalk project started after Crocker moved from Calgary to a remote part of Nova Scotia, its lack of music community informing his working methods. Two previous albums – 2018’s Plurality Trip, like this LP released on the Constellation label, and before that MUUIXX from 2015 – are diverting readings of ambient electronica and crunchy live techno with broadly Krautrock-ish repetitive phrases. Neither display, or honestly suggest, the infusion of discipline and grandeur that holds across A Separation…’s three tracks, each atom-precise suites for synthesiser and strings.

‘I’ve Got That Trans-Dimensional Feeling Again’, the shortest piece at a little under eight minutes, begins as buoyant, if bookish and benign, IDM. About 150 seconds in, the central melody is doubled up, this time performed on cello by Jesse Zubot, a session player for a wealth of Canadian acts who also released the first Joyfultalk album on his label. Incrementally, it becomes more akin to a contemporary classical piece with an electronic bed, as opposed to electronica with strings plastered on. ‘Pixelated Skin’ glances at dance music via a dry, thudding kickdrum, a delicate keyboard pattern that reduces some of the daylight between minimal composition and minimal techno (because, really, the twain rarely meets), and a reprise of Zubot’s string parts from the album opener. I’m moved the least by this track, whose arrangements are deft and agreeable but which reminds me of neither-fish-nor-fowl retired-raver polo neck sweater music like Brandt Brauer Frick or someone.

‘Liquefied Then Evaporated’ would have been a good song title for a sci-fi death metal band but is in fact Joyfultalk’s side-long piece de resistance. Here, Zubot’s strings are looped, hypnotically and mixed so as to ensure all other elements are submissive; what might be a vocal sample is laid underneath as a drone-cum-infinite sigh, and a stoic bass part maintains gravity. An appearance of a vibraphone or close relation underscores Crocker’s debt to the lineage (if not the piece itself) of Steve Reich’s Music For 18 Musicians. Partly through technology, of course, but owing much to the composer’s own ingenuity, A Separation Of Being was made by just one person and an acoustic sideman, and makes densely assembled music sound feather-light and, yes, joyful.