We've entered that time when music journalists reflect on the past year's audio offerings. After much consideration of this important matter, I've concluded that my favorite album of 2005 is Jan Jelinek's Kosmischer Pitch (~scape; scape-music.de).
Jelinek is a German producer who records under many aliases. He hasn't received the glowing critical acclaim or robust sales figures of other musicians to whom he's either equal or superior. I hope to remedy this injustice.
Jelinek's career has been marked by excellence no matter which moniker he adopts: Farben, Gramm, or the Exposures. Many heads first encountered Jelinek through his Farben 12-inch EPs for Klang Elektronik, nine tracks of which are collected on the Textstar CD. This disc finds Jelinek smudging the boundaries where clicks & cuts blurs into microhouse; it's an interiorized brand of dance music marked by glitch- and static-strewn digital data and esoteric samples. Although clicks & cuts is typically more about disorientation and sonic exploration than hedonism, Textstar eroticizes the subgenre's usually sterile environments and is perhaps the most texturally delightful and paradoxically warm-sounding specimen of its kind. With the Exposures, Jelinek fabricates a shadow group of musicians, allowing him to explore hiphop, funk, and R&B at a studied remove (fitting for a European tackling American styles).
The common threads running through all of Jelinek's productions are an exceptionally acute ability to imbue seemingly "cold" sonic signifiers with poignant emotional heft and a luscious attention to detail that can only be the product of profound love—a love that transcends sappiness and enters the domain of veneration for (im)pure sound.
In a career of lofty peaks, Kosmischer Pitch represents the summit of Jelinek's spellbinding creativity. Updating '70s Kraut-rock's more expansive proclivities, Jelinek has bestowed a sprawling banquet of head music that suspends you in a glorious cloud cuckoo-land of oscillating analog synths and speaking-in-alien-tongues guitars. (The music is so extraordinary, it forced me to mix metaphors.)
It's hard to pinpoint highlights in an album this consistently wonderful, but "Im Diskodickicht" certainly qualifies. It's a slow-motion cosmic disco cut featuring chattering wah-wah guitar and cricket-chirp synths that accrues density and chaos as it goes; it's unbelievably hypnotic. "Planeten in Halbtrauer" evokes a mysterious ceremony celebrating Earth's demise, a glazed-eyeball symphony of slurred guitar snarls, mesmerizing bass plucks, and eerie keyboards that flicker like solar-flare mirages. "Morphing Leadgitarre Rückwärts" ends things with guitars similar to Faust's "Miss Fortune" abstracted into infinite, languid oscillations, creating a dazzling hall-of-mirrors effect.
Kosmischer Pitch makes you wish your entire body were covered with ears, the better to absorb its bountiful pleasures. It's both the ideal post-clubbing wind-down album and a deeply psychedelic opus rigorously engineered to launch your mind heavenward, ever so gently.
Jelinek summarized his compositional approach in a 2001 interview with the Wire: "The idea is that I want to create maximum depth with minimal forms." Mission accomplished... again and again.