I’ve been diligently keeping up with the music of prolific Alabama native Chris Jeely for the last eight years. Through an endless stream of singles, EPs, CDRs and proper full-lengths under the Accelera Deck name, Jeely has staked a claim as one of America’s most underrated electronic musicians. If you listened to his discography in order, a strange trajectory emerges. Jeely’s 1997 debut album, Narcotic Beats, fused My Bloody Valentine-style guitars with jungle and drum-and-bass and rhythms (a juxtaposition that MBV’s Kevin Shields admittedly wanted to pursue, but never did). His next three albums, though, stripped away the guitars, focusing instead on grinding beats that brought to mind a more accessible version of Autechre. After a brief, ill-advised detour into vocal-based folk (on 2001’s Shadow Land), Jeely seems to have returned to the wall of guitars that characterized his debut…but this time, he has stripped away the beats.
On Jeely’s latest album Pop Polling, he runs his guitar through an array of DSP effects, and constructs an ambient sound that often recalls the Austrian composer Fennesz (particularly his masterpiece Endless Summer). “Ferric” begins with layers of rapidly skipping single notes, underneath which a haze of attack-less guitars slowly shift from one chord to the next. Swooping, laser-gun noises ricochet from speaker to speaker, subtly foreshadowing the crescendo to come. At around the halfway mark, a wave of distorted guitars a la Lovesliescrushing enters the mix and holds the song hostage, producing an effect that is both beautiful and frightening. The next track, “Come Alive,” sounds like an imaginary collaboration between Boards of Canada and Wolf Eyes. The guitars are run through a woozy vibrato, and are nearly overtaken by the flatulent noises of tape decay. “Isn’t” is probably the most serene song on the album, consistently entirely of attack-less guitars that sound like the droning of an orchestra.
Unfortunately, “Isn’t” is sequenced so that it serves as a palate cleanser after Pop Polling’s two most abrasive tracks: “Lips” and “Sunskull.” “Lips” is a 12-minute noise improvisation in which Jeely ekes out piercing feedback and irritating scrapes from him guitar, with no discernible DSP used to manipulate them or make them more palatable. Frankly, it sounds like a bored teenager in the garage trying out his new distortion pedal. “Sunskull” is shorter and has more structure, but it lays the digital distortion on so thick that you’ll think someone slipped Merzbow in the CD player when you weren’t looking. These two songs seriously disrupt the flow of the record, as the songs that come before and after it are infinitely easier to digest. “Lips” and “Sunskull” make listening to Pop Polling feel like eating a delicious sandwich, only to bite into a nail that the sadistic Subway clerk buried in the middle.
That sequencing flaw aside, Pop Polling is a fine piece of work from a composer who has gone unnoticed even in the underground for far too long. With his label Scarcelight branching out and releasing music by like-minded artists around the world, here’s hoping that Jeely’s name starts getting around a bit quicker.
Artist Website: http://www.finitesite.com/scarcelight/artists/adeck.html
Label Website: http://www.scarcelight.org