Remembering Philip Jeck

Dale Cornish remembers the sublime, time-distorting work of Philip Jeck who died on Friday

The first time I heard Philip Jeck’s music was a pub in Balham, South London. A night celebrating 25 years of Touch, the audio visual publishing company that’s released most of his records. Or was it at the Curzon Cinema in Soho, providing the live soundtrack one Saturday afternoon to a film by Tereza Stehlíková? I vaguely remember a monochrome film of hands stroking sand in boxes. A more vivid memory of the afternoon is Jeck’s swooning, unsettling timbres and crackles, filling the prematurely air-conditioned cinema. Or was it neither? 

Time, and the placement of time, is odd: someone makes an impression so strong, so singular, you can’t believe there was a time before they were part of your view of the world. They were always there. And now, sadly, no longer. Philip Jeck, the British, turntable pioneer, has died after a brief illness, per a Twitter statement from Touch on Sunday night. Born in 1952, he studied visual arts at Dartington College of Arts in the seventies. The college allowed him one day a week to study in the neighbouring music and theatre workshop, allowing him to sit on workshops by visiting professionals such as Carolee Schneemann and People Show. 

Initially dabbling in the guitar, Jeck later explored the possibilities of turntables from the early eighties, being drawn to the sound possibilities of playing 78prm records on junkshop record players that could play at 16rpm. Jeck has also cited trips to New York, witnessing the likes of Larry Levan and Walter Gibbons exploring turntable techniques and extended looping for inspiring him to attempt similar vinyl manipulations back home.