The folktronic excursions of UK’s Jilk demand our company every few years, and ACL is always delighted to go along for the ride. Predominantly the work of Bristol-based musician and composer Jonathan Worsley, the band peddles an engaging and joyful sound that marries intricate, glitchy electronica to folk- and orchestral-tinged composition. This all-new EP continues where 2013’s Retreat to Sleep LP left off, showcasing the increasing diversity Worsley delivers from that coupling.
With the clocks sprung back and the sun rays gathering courage, In Need Of Tess provides perfect accompaniment with six pacey and varied tracks. After a languid introduction of reverb-laden piano, horn and male vocals, the eponymous opener brings its scuttling subterranean beats to the surface in a pulsating, snare-driven frenzy of cinematic, pop-tinged electronica (see its pleasingly synchronised video below). Vocals also accompany ”All Is Not Lost,” a reinterpretation of a country song by local singer-songwriter Nuala Honan. The fragments and echoes of her vocal lend this most amorphous and glitch-ridden of the collection an eerie quality, but warmth soons permeates with acoustic guitar and glockenspiel, before a beat suddenly drops to skew the song’s rhythm in an unexpected direction.
Fear not, instrumental devotees, as the voices more or less end there. So too, broadly, do the abrupt changes of pace and genre that have become a Jilk hallmark – the other three songs all display notably more cohesive elements of ambient electronica (“Nim”, split across two tracks), post-rock (“Baby Hannah”) and lo-fi electro (“Be Heart”). “Baby Hannah” is the most rewarding, smoothly transitioning from a wonderfully vacuous start of field recordings, spacious guitar chords and gradually swelling violin into a groove- and glitch-driven midsection whose mournful, swooning violin line turns our head from levity for the only time in the record. Elsewhere, the relatively formulaic “Nim”, with Four Tet-esque processed guitar lines, is a repurposed soundtrack to a locally produced short film, while the low-key “Be Heart” is driven by an interrupted beat above which vibraphone and sparkling synths evoke a sense of childish nostalgia.
Common to both the filmic accompaniments of this EP is an apt focus on detail. The video above closes in tightly on statues in various states of disrepair, while the film for which “Nim” was composed collages distant, aerial shots of the city of Bristol to depict it in miniaturised form. This charming film is analogous to In Need of Tess – fractured beats, pops and clicks scurrying about below in both rigid and seemingly arbitrary fashion, and violin, horn and synth lines soaring high above, free and inspiring. Much music is synonymous with one or other of these perspectives; Jilk is precious in uniting both. (Chris Redfearn)