This cryptically titled release is a new side project from Black to Comm’s Marc Richter, inaugurating his equally new Cellule 75 imprint. In some ways, Jemh Circs is quite a radical departure for Richter, following the zeitgeist-grabbing footsteps of The Range by diving into the limitless pleasure garden of chopped-up and recontextualized YouTube samples. Vintage Oval is yet another clear touchstone, as Richter aggressive obliterates his raw material into an obsessively skipping and looping fantasia. Happily, however, the specter of Richter's own Black to Comm aesthetic drifts throughout all of these disorientingly kaleidoscopic experiments as well, intermittently resulting in passages of lush beauty and eerie disquietude.
The opening 'Comp" sets the album off on deliciously squirming and jumbled course, as Richter conjures up an impressive pile-up of stuttering, pointillist, and pitch-shifted snatches of voices and exhalations. Instead of building something from his gibbering entropy, however, he abruptly shifts gears into a slower, druggier variation upon the original theme that quickly reaches a crescendo of cacophony, then disappears. The following "Ordre" continues that quixotic trend of endlessly wrong-footing me by disrupting its gorgeous motif of warmly droning loops with unexpected key changes and interludes of blurting randomness. It is quite a unique aesthetic and it goes far beyond the "a more digital and artificial sounding affair' promised by the album's description. Also, it unsurprisingly bears little resemblance at all to the "modern day Pop Music" it cannibalizes. Instead, the first few songs mostly sound like an over-caffeinated bad acid trip in a candy store where time keeps arbitrarily stretching and violently condensing. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but Richter definitely prioritizes gleefully perverse experimentation over listenability. Once it clear that the gauntlet has been thrown down and that the squeamish have left, however, the album gets increasing more compelling and conventionally beautiful as Marc starts to sustain his ideas long enough to leave an impression.
For example, the third song ("Va") is quite a bit more coherent and grounded than its predecessors, locking into lovely, dream-like pulse that gradually blossoms into additional harmonies. "Est" then slows the pace way down, sounding like a disembodied, gauzy, and slowed-down dance music chord progression while making room for some intriguing textural touches in the periphery (like copious tape hiss and a distractedly singing German woman). It is probably single most ambitious piece on the album, as Marc does some unusual things with both dynamics and tempo as it gradually snowballs in density and power. My favorite pieces tend to be a bit more simple though, albeit no less bizarre. One clear stand-out is "Iant," which sounds like the missing link between drone music and a woodpecker. Lamentably, it is over far too soon, but several of the following pieces are of a similar caliber (such as the lush and gently quivering "Ondre"). Of course, there are also some thoroughly jarring moments thrown in as well, like the plinking and mercifully brief "Arbre." For the most part, however, Richter does not let his "Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde" tone shifts derail the second half of the album much at all. In fact, the album ends on an extremely strong note, as the closing "Fait" is an absolutely gorgeous excursion into woozily hallucinatory drone bliss that can easily stand with Black to Comm's finer moments.
While I like quite a few songs on this album, it is very easy to see why Richter decided to invent a new guise for this project, as Jemh Circs very much feels like a cheerfully maniacal cross between laboratory and playground. There are plenty of moments of very real inspiration, but a number of pieces feel quite sketchlike and it is clear that Richter was not shy about indulging his more listener-unfriendly impulses. In fact, "indulgent" is probably the single best word to summarize this album, though "playful" and "mercurial" are certainly also strong candidates. As such, Jemh Circs is primarily for Black to Comm fans (like me) who are patiently awaiting Richter's next fully formed opus. As a one-off aberration, however, Jemh Circs is quite likable, as its unapologetic mix of "anything goes" experimentation and ephemeral beauty is never boring or predictable.