For a Moment Nothing Happens (Side A) 01 (Excerpt)
For a Moment Nothing Happens (Side A) 02 (Excerpt)
For a Moment Nothing Happens (Side B) 01 (Excerpt)
Cosmic eavesdropping with Jarra
In the beginning there was sound. A primordial sea of sound. Or was it actually a terrifying silence without horizon or sky? No ears to hear it in this God forsaken universe. From a bottomless darkness; unfathomable sounds rising up cautiously. Somewhere between d-minor and b-flat something broods, something emerges; deep drones, whispering star chants and buzzing black holes. Mysterious sounds that should never have reached this sublunary sphere, but nevertheless fascinate without end. It is cosmic eavesdropping hors catégorie - beyond categorization. In his music, the Rotterdam based sound artist Jarra does nothing less. Armed with an array of analogue synthesizers and a rich imagination, Jarra taps into his inner cosmos and unveils the unheard.
At the end of 2019 Jarra already surprised us with his IsoMonads tape, but now Jarra ventures even deeper into the void with For A Moment Nothing Happens. One moment you can only perceive small and cautious footsteps moving through an inaccessible, icy universe, while the next an infernal cosmic mechanism switches into overdrive. Indeed, for a single moment nothing seems to happen, but then Jarra pulls out all the stops. Subtly and patiently he immerses his listener in a delusional sound oases. Raw frequencies beat around your ears, sky-high jubilant overtones permeate your subconscious, threatening drones and unfathomable silences unleash inner primal fears.
While listening to the four compositions of For A Moment Nothing Happens, you immediately notice that Jarra has turned the sound of analog synthesizers - like the Buchla Easel, Marienberg Devices and the Rob Hordijk System - inside out. Applying a strict and demarcated working method, he gives the familiar synthesizer sounds an entirely different aura. By using analogue effects, feedback and distortion, Jarra creates a gritty, raw and organic palette. “I can spend days working on my synthesizers before I really draw out something magical,” he explains. “I play with the instability of the synthesizer so that my own input remains minimal. Fortunately, I can now increasingly predict how the sounds will turn out. That means a hell of a lot of listening. In my opinion, the role of composer and listener is being turned around more and more, so the little you do as a creator has to be done very concentrated”. The junction where music ceases to be music and sounds start to become music intrigues Jarra immensely.
In addition to his compositions made with analogue synthesizers, Jarra has been working for decades with several remarkable field recordings. The Sama’ series from 2002 are such an example: hypnotic field recordings made in Malaysia where he lived for some time. Again, these are pristine sound odyssees that tell their own stories independently of the maker. Jarra’s love for sound in its purest form goes all the way back to his youth. “Sounds that hardly anyone notices have my full attention, whether I listen to the wind or make field recordings of raging cars under the Van Brienenoord Bridge”.
One key memory has always stayed with him. “As an eight-year-old, I once was confined to my home. I was pretty ill, lying on the couch while no one was home. There was total silence. It was so quiet that I picked up noises that I normally didn’t pay attention to. A buzzing refrigerator and cars advancing from afar and racing past. It’s this kind of pure sound that I strive for when I’m making music”.
His past as an abstract painter also seeps into Jarra’s aesthetics. “In my monochrome paintings I often worked with sixty different layers of paint. For months I searched for the best surface or colour shade. I regularly sanded away layers, often removing more than I added. Over time a patina arose. That wear and tear, that noise-like quality is also reflected in my musical work. It comes to life that way”.
In Jarra’s music you can hear the dark shadows of industrial music magicians like Maurizio Bianchi, Deathprod and Kevin Drumm, but also drone pioneers Roland Kayn, Eliane Radigue and Pauline Oliveros inspire Jarra’s supernatural sound fantasies. The aim is to make music that has separated itself completely from its creator, and takes on a life of its own in the listener’s imagination. Jarra’s sound poems have a dark, mysterious edge. “I am fascinated by the inscrutability of our existence. I think of conflicts like the Vietnam War and the Cold War. Our entire history is recorded by people who lived to tell about these disasters. But what would our history look like if it had been written by the people who didn’t survive. Is our image of reality too rosy?” Listening to Jarra’s latest work, questions regarding the cosmic mystery and the immeasurable loneliness of man reverberate more intensely than ever.
Mark van de Voort
Translation by Mariëlle Verdijk