Since the 1980s, Philip Jeck has been creating sound sculptures -- some of them quite abstract, others structured with beats and audible progressions -- using junk-shop record players, outdated Casio keyboards, basses, effects, and other digital and analog miscellanea. An Ark for the Listener started out as a live performance at Kings Place London in February of 2010; after about a dozen more live performances, Jeck took recordings of them back to his home studio, extracted passages from the recordings, and used those extracts to create a new studio version. The seven-part piece was inspired by a Gerard Manley Hopkins poem about a shipwreck in which five nuns drowned, though the music contains no explicit musical or lyrical referents to it. It opens in a dark and arrhythmic mode with "Pilot/Dark Blue Night," a track that gradually becomes oddly brighter and more open, incorporating what sound like creepily altered radio samples; "Ark" blends chiming bell tones with glockenspiel sounds, and is aimlessly lovely. "Pilot Reprise" and "The All of Water" sound like afterthoughts, with chords and noise carelessly piled on, but "The Pilot (Among Our Shoals)" is especially interesting: faintly sampled beats combine with almost recognizable melodic fragments to create something that sounds like a remix of a Bill Nelson track circa 1983. The album closes with a couple of remixes, both of them quite pleasant.
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AllMusic Review by Rick Anderson