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Institut Ramon Llull is a consortium comprising the Government of Catalonia, the Government of the Balearic Islands, and the Barcelona City Council. Its mission is the support and promotion of Catalan language and culture abroad, in all its forms and means of expression.

The electroverse, poetronica and lyrical gangsters

paperllull.  Palma,  12/07/2020
Laia Malo

Jansky's proposal goes through a very singular conjunction between electronics and poetry. In this article, the poet and translator Laia Martínez i López (Laia MaLo) talks about her creative and performing experience with the duet she shares with the musician Jaume Reus.




As you can imagine, when we started playing with the Jansky experiment (a mixture of organic electronica, a flautist and a poet half-speaking, half-singing), we never dreamed that one day we would be performing in front of Polish, Moroccan, Korean and other faraway audiences. Especially because, rather than a musical formation, we considered ourselves a ‘performative’ game, with one foot in the realm of Gil Scott Heron’s spoken word, the other in Patti Smith’s punk rhapsody, and a hand brushing the world of Kraftwerk. But also partly because our language of creation is Catalan, and in our first contact with music industry professionals in Mallorca, it seemed like this would be an obstacle in our attempt to pass through literary environments and arrive in the music industry.

Nonetheless, at home, we found support from alternative collectives like Velvetine, a group of videoartists and DJs who play vinyl records, which included us in their crew as the first live act. In Catalonia, before Heliogàbal, Nau B1 in Granollers booked us as part of a double concert with Tim & Puma Mimi, in 2012. The band consists of a Japanese woman and a Swiss man who connect wires to bodies and fruit, synthesise the resulting sound to lay a track and rap over it, with surreal lyrics in various languages.

After the performances, they told us they often played at jazz festivals, because they tend to include styles that are not strictly jazz, as long as they are based on improvisation. This lovely couple’s recommendation linked up with the ideas of the unique Za!, the only difference being that this Catalan group emerged as an instrumental formation (and has now ventured into collaborating with poets).

Their intuition materialised in 2018, when we participated in the Jazzablanca festival (Morocco), the line-up of which included Morcheeba and St Germain: two established examples of what we do. Morcheeba, because of their combination of electronica with particular, poetic voices, and St Germain, on account of his incorporation of the flute into house (on the 2000 album Tourist). At Seoul Music Week, we performed with emerging projects influenced by all styles that drifted from tonadas and popular poetry to the discourse of K-pop.

It was not until 2018, at the Live at Heart festival (Sweden), that we coincided with another flute. There, we met Canadian artist Rozalind McPhail, who uses loop and effect pedals, like Jaume Reus, and has appeared on studio albums by groups such as Yo La Tengo and Caribou. Now we share ideas and technical knowledge about the flute: something we couldn’t do with anyone until very recently. At home, Jaume has worked as a flautist with acts including Oso Leone and Shoeg. Even so, here in the Catalan Countries, the electrojazz genre is only just starting to produce artists, like Tversky and Akkan.

I must say that, straight away, Jansky caught the attention of Sónar Barcelona: one of the leading festivals when it comes to experimentation. So, in 2013, when we had just released our debut album, we got this opportunity to introduce ourselves to the world. The experience was unbelievable, because the only references we knew from home were performing on the same stage at that edition (the duos Pascal Comelade/Enric Casasses and Bradien/Eduard Escoffet, with whom we shared the concept of ‘musician + poet + electronic experimentation’). Looking at the line-up seven years later, it’s funny to see that the names we accompanied have walked a similar path: Za!, BeGun or Alizz, Tiger Menja Zebra and Coàgul. We’ve also bumped into Olaffur Arnalds in the UK.

Since 2014, we have been organising little tours once or twice a year, which allows us to keep up with a culture that keeps music at the heart of its life in a totally natural way. The ‘poetronica’ label was already working, with groups reminiscent of Hidrogenesse, for example. While we had no representative in the Catalan Countries, over in London, a local booking company included us on its roster, deeming us ‘special’. This adjective usually raises an eyebrow among programmers here, whereas they go crazy for it over there. We never know what kind of groups we’ll meet on the stage, and that’s wonderful.

Although the big ‘indie’ tag continues to dominate, it doesn’t feel like we’re being dragged along, like it does in the Catalan Countries when a musical trend comes into fashion. Now, our go-to venues are Iklectik, Cargo and the Camden Assembly, in London, and The Old Abbey Taphouse and The Deaf Institute, in Manchester. The audience never get their phones out during the concert; instead, they listen, dance and, when it’s over, they take an interest in the groups’ creative processes and the literary content of the songs. These places value the combination of folklore and roots with a fun or daring attitude. They bear similarities with initiatives like Konvent, which hosts multi-disciplinary proposals, or Ameba, the Barcelona Association of Electronica Musicians.

Creation on the margins of big festivals and venues has given rise to very specific projects with unusual features. At the 2019 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, we shared a microresidence at some studios in Leith (the troubled neighbourhood from Trainspotting) with young artists Yoko Pwno, who combine electronica, traditional instruments (violin and flutes) and poetry, mainly in Scotish.

The same year, we published our third disc, this time with a different record label. Now, we are with Hidden Track Records: a collaborative label thought up by Louise Sansom with a horizontal structure and eclectic collection of projects that offer diversity, in all senses of the word. Louise provides the lead vocals for Anímic, the group she shares with her partner Ferran Palau, which is right up our street: energetic and poetic. Back at home, more things have emerged from these peripheries, all with a playful spirit: the latest album by Joana Gomila and Laia Vallès, in which electronica plays a central role; the wonderful, outlandish work by Tarta Relena; or the Spotify fanzine, Poetry Spam, in which electronica producers collaborate with young Catalan poets, working from our concept of the electroverse.

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