For the last decade, Jute Gyte has been steadily pumping out albums, at least one per year, across various genres, from experimental black metal to ambient to power electronics. Known for this prolific nature, together with a tendency to reach as far into the ether for new sounds as possible and an immediately noticeable identity due to the use of microtones, the solo project borne of composer Adam Kalmbach has grown from a fringe oddity into a powerful force within the metal underground over the last ten years without compromising any of the idiosyncratic weirdness that gave Jute Gyte such a sound to be reckoned with in the first place. Compositions are labyrinthine and multifarious to an extreme; an imposing grasp of theory on Kalmbach’s part allows for sonic structures that deal with a panoply of elements moving simultaneously in and out of unison.
Following a period of hyper-productivity for the first half of this decade in which each year saw three or more new albums from Jute Gyte, Kalmbach poured all of his energy for 2016 into Perdurance, his best album yet: fluidly throwing together the best sounds that Jute Gyte had dabbled in, Perdurance was a combination of black metal, death industrial, and power electronics that pleased older followers while bringing new ones into the fold with its singular nature. It was, by any account, one of the best albums from Jute Gyte yet, the epode to the strophic and antistrophic nature of previous works; Perdurance deftly brought into cohesion what had before been two disparate sounds. It wasn’t the first time Kalmbach had done this—2015’s The Ship of Theseus also saw him playing with this idea—but here it was taken to entirely new heights, truly more than the sum of its parts.
Working backwards in the dialectic model in which Perdurance is synthesis, what we find in The Sparrow, Jute Gyte’s first release with Blue Tapes & X-Ray Records, is both thesis and antithesis, each presented on respective sides of the record. First seeing release digitally at the very end of 2016, and then again this month on vinyl, The Sparrow is two side-long tracks, the A-side being roiling, churning black metal and the B-side, a collage of ambient pieces. The titular first track whirs and flits with a speedy, anxious energy true to its namesake; “The Sparrow” maintains a steady, rigorous clip across twenty minutes that throw the listener into a war of attrition against the whirlpool tide of microtones and harsh vocals. As soon as “The Sparrow” ends, leaving listeners stung and in dire need of reprieve, “Monadanom,” the second half of the record, throws its calming, sonorous weight onto the listener like a thick, fluid quilt. However, what starts as refreshing and peaceful gradually becomes more viscous and cloying as the track goes on, and “Monadanom” builds a life entirely its own out of the series of vignettes it presents.
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Working on a record built of two tracks was a new challenge for Kalmbach. “With The Sparrow,” he says, “I liked the idea of building the whole song around a single musical object—a nine-note quarter-tone cluster chord—and I had to determine whether or not that idea could be fruitfully explored for 20 minutes.” The track alternates between outright seething and a more quiet, reserved burn throughout, but the singular nature of this structure gives the whole piece a cohesion that belies its nigh-monolithic length. “Monadanom,” on the other hand, works in the opposite way: the B-side of The Sparrow is “actually a collage of a few different unfinished tracks.” After time spent “experimenting with microtonal guitar-based ambient, [Kalmbach] had generated a lot of material, but much of it was too static and non-developmental for [him] to feel comfortable releasing it. ‘Monadanom’ combines three different 10 to 15-minute pieces from those experiments, transitioning from one to the next very slowly to create the sense of development that the original material lacked.”
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Another of Jute Gyte’s large draws is how open Kalmbach is with his creative process: every release has extensive notes on the various means of approach and methodologies used in the composition of different tracks, which Kalmbach chalks up to what he wants from the artists and groups he’s a fan of himself. “When I like a piece of music I want to know as much as possible about the creative process behind it. I love it when bands share information about their processes in a comprehensive way, like the great commentary tracks on the recent Darkthrone reissues, but that’s unfortunately rare: more often I end up trying to track down interviews with the artist and hoping certain questions are asked.” Like a digital version of authorial marginalia, the creative motion behind Jute Gyte tends to be laid bare, which can help in trying to crack the cipher-like ways in which Kalmbach composes tracks and brings his unique vision of extreme music to life.
Dave, the founder of Blue Tapes & X-Ray Records, had this to say about his reasoning for working with Jute Gyte on the release of The Sparrow:
Really, I’d never heard anything like Jute Gyte before. That was the draw. Totally new sensations and textures and motions and feelings that I hadn’t experienced in music before—and I listen to a lot of music, so that capacity to be surprised, caught off-guard and ultimately floored by something new is really something rare and special and is something that I and other music nerds really crave. To that end, Jute Gyte is a very appropriate fit for Blue Tapes and X-Ray Records, because that is the music we specialise in. It’s not a genre, it’s a kind of subtle rewiring of the listening experience. Achieving that effect is very difficult to do, because everyone who makes and consumes music carries around so much baggage in terms of expectations, ways of interpreting sound, semiotics etc. I’m not sure that it’s something you can even do intentionally – I think it happens if you’re very honest and very dedicated to your craft and just to being your you the hardest you can.
Among other terminology, both “dedicated” and “honest” certainly apply to the music of Jute Gyte: Adam Kalmbach’s support does not come from any watering-down of his music to reach a wider audience. People come to albums like The Sparrow, Perdurance, and others because, like all the most memorable pieces of art, they draw you into the headspace of the artist and allow you to collaborate with their vision just by being involved and witnessing it. Challenging, unique, and brimming with life, The Sparrow is both an excellent album in its own right and a great entry into the canon of one of the most interesting and forward-thinking agents operating within the broad umbrella of metal today.