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AbstractJak Explores and Exploits Electronic Music's Building Blocks

Updated on June 28, 2016
AbstractJak: Aural Architect
AbstractJak: Aural Architect

I have recently enjoyed delving into the music of AbstractJak aka Dr. Ron K Sedgwick. Dr. Sedgwick received his Doctorate degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara. It was obvious to me from the git-go that something new was afoot. As Karheinz Stockhausen and Edgar Varése furthered the early development of electronic music, AbstractJak captures, modifies, and massages the frequencies of our everyday 21st-century world, diversifying and enhancing them to more than their commonly recognized elements. His aural architecture is a universe away from dub-step, techno-electronica, and more ubiquitous commercially-oriented fare, and thankfully so. He presents a balance of textures and tones completely new to our ears and emotions.

For instance...

In “Stones Metal Water Wood Skin,” listeners will not immediately recognize the title sounds as they are commonly heard but can discern their modified origins throughout the piece. It features a slow yet increasingly more complex poly-rhythmic texture punctuated by intrusions of noise that eventually consume and distort the sounds, so much so, that by its conclusion the listener has been taken on quite a sonic journey. This work is an ambitious tour-de-force.

“Soul Sucking Leaches” is like being lost inside an open grand piano, bouncing around on the strings before experiencing feedback that calls up tension and unease. This piece seems inspired by a dark view of romantic relationships; gut-wrenching, twisting and turning until, before you know it, it’s over! A surprise ending, so to speak, like those too-often experienced when failure sneaks up on love and crushes it from seemingly out of nowhere.

In contrast, we hear “…then came laughter”, a gentle contemplative work of convincing beauty and nuance; crafted with obvious patience and skill. This percussive work, accompanied by the sound of a gentle stream, deftly evolves over time. The mutation of “wood” sounds into “metal” ones and back again results in a sonic hybrid that is central to this music, plus the “vinyl” sound provides warmth to the work. Interesting and relaxing, it seemed like the introspective soundtrack that preceded the rediscovery of laughter. But, then, I wasn’t there at its inception.

Dr. Ron Sedgwick recently lectured at the University of California at Santa Barbara.
Dr. Ron Sedgwick recently lectured at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

On a larger scale the set “3EP” begins with the percolating track “Vibrance” which exploits micro-tonal harmonic clusters and the aleatoric methods reminiscent of Polish composer Witold Lutoslawski. This is followed by the subdued beauty of “Cadence” with its rich harmonies and evolving textures akin to the vocal dissonance of Ligeti’s “Requiem for Soprano, Mezzo Soprano, Two Mixed Choirs & Orchestra” featured in the Stanley Kubrick film “2001: A Space Odyssey”. By hinting at the aforementioned percolating character of “Vibrance” a befitting conclusion to this trilogy is “Essence”, a somewhat whimsical piece that teases the listener at times with false stops and new sounds introduced and distorted along the way.

“3EP” conjures up a kind of mystery and awe that takes us to different realms leaving the listener with a bewitching aura of uncertainty and expectation. AbstractJak explores hidden aspects of sounds both familiar and foreign to audiences cultivated on pseudo-creative numbing pop songs and dance music. That’s not to say he turns a deaf ear to popular music, he simply processes it through his own creative filters. “GrindHouse 2.2.0”, “Bone Crusher (Bastard baby remix)” and “It Was More Fun in Hell…a happy time” most certainly would get the rave-houses jumping. He not only thinks outside the box but has discarded all the customary packaging as he discovers and introduces new adventures to our musical world.

The lineage of noise music by such pioneers as Merzbow and the late Atrax Morgue is alive and well. AbstractJak’s artistic and innovative approach to this genre is his alone. The aural assault of “Trampled” left me feeling relentlessly handled and out of control, swept up in a current from which there is no escape, as did the bombardment of senses found in “It City” and “FreqFilterOscillatorMoshThrob” and the relentless pummeling and punching bag character of “Fight Club”. These aspects of AbstractJak’s music carry one forward to crushingly chaotic finales (like those bad situations that you just can’t turn away from).

This music has attracted a global audience via the Internet, eliciting appreciative responses from listeners to the fresh and daring quality of his compositions. His industry traverses a new frontier that audiences are welcome to realize and enjoy with him. Furthermore, the tracks on “All Live EP” make it clear that his audience appreciates being swept up in his sonic world and the intensity and energy of his music. It is wonderful to hear the enthusiastic response and applause as it adds an organic component to the work. One must wonder what visuals, if any, were displayed during the performances.

Dr. Sedgwick aka AbstractJak presents many ebbs and flows throughout his compositions; tension and release, comfort and chaos, vulgarity and beauty. Some pieces would almost be at home at a rave, calling forth some wild, uninhibited moments. Some are characteristic of an etude, a study in how basic sonic frequencies may be manipulated while other works summon up the raw side of the human psyche. Charting these works is difficult, but that’s the point; this is not like your parent’s music. I guess the closest genre to what AbstractJak offers would be avant-garde electronic music pulling out all the stops, or, as he calls it “crushed electronica”; sometimes frenetic, sometimes calming.

His works embody the essence of que sera sera, an emotional roller-coaster, yin and yang. There are a multitude of marvelous soundscapes to be enjoyed (“Camel Bell” and “In a moment” are among my personal favorites) and some, like in “blur”, are gone all too soon. In other selections, he musters moments of discomfort interspersed with soothing counterparts (“fragile”, “Not drowning in my dreams”). It’s a real gamut of reaction that one must experience for oneself, as with any music worth listening to. Get some headphones or crank up the speakers and enter Dr. Sedgwick’s (AbstractJak) sonic playground.

Spending long hours in production
Spending long hours in production

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