Winner of the Parliamentary Jazz Award for Best Media, 2019


I Work In Communications

Kiss My Emoji Ring

by Ian Mann

January 13, 2023


A sound that defies categorisation. Combining elements of jazz, rock & electronica it’s probably fair to refer to it as ‘space jazz’, but a ‘space jazz’ with its roots in European music traditions.

I Work In Communications

“Kiss My Emoji Ring”

(tier.debut TDR002)

Marius Mathiszik – guitar, bass, loops, synths, glockenspiel, editing, Dave De Rose – drums, George Crowley – saxophone, FX

Now here’s a rarity, a cassette / digital only release from the trio I Work Communications, hereafter IWIC, headed by the German born guitarist and sound artist Marius Mathiszik and featuring the talents of London based musicians Dave De Rose (drums) and George Crowley (saxophone). Released at the end of September 2022 it appears on Mathiszik’s own tier.debut imprint.

Mathiszik was born in 1985 in Germany and later studied jazz and pop guitar in the Netherlands at the ArtEZ Conservatory in Arnhem. He elected to stay on in the city and became a member of the art-pop outfit Nausica, an ensemble that also included musicians from the Netherlands and Poland.
He stayed with the band for four years before leaving in 2015 to concentrate on other projects, releasing a solo album under the name Jan Matiz and performing at rave festivals as part of the electronic duo Erdfish.

In 2017 Mathiszik moved to Athens, Greece, where he is still based. In 2020 he worked with De Rose ( on bass) and the Athens based musicians Gustav Penka (drums) Dimitris Kalousis (keys) under the name Forest Binary,  the group releasing an eponymous début album on the Fortune Cut label. Subsequently Mathiszik and De Rose worked together as a duo, releasing “I Work In Communications” in 2021, a work synergised from manipulated cuts from the Forest Binary sessions.

The latest edition of IWIC adds London based saxophonist George Crowley to the ranks. A regular presence on the Jazzmann web pages Crowley is a highly versatile musician who has played right across the jazz spectrum. Among those with whom he has collaborated are vocalist Brigitte Beraha, trumpeter Yazz Ahmed and the band Melt Yourself Down, plus many, many more.

Dave De Rose is an Anglo-Italian instrumentalist who moved to London from Rome in 1996 to study jazz at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama. Best known as a drummer he has performed with a wide variety of artists across a range of musical genres, including jazz, rock, pop, world and electronica. He has also self released twenty two records on his own record label, simply called Dave De Rose Records.

De Rose and Crowley have previously worked together in the former’s Agile Experiments project and in the improvising trio Wolf Off, which also features Rory Simmons (trumpet, keyboard, electronics). My review of the Agile Experiments 2020 album release “Alive In The Empire” can be found here;

Like so many other recent album releases “Kiss My Emoji Ring” is a product of lockdown with the musicians having recorded their parts remotely before the music was edited into its finished form by Mathiszik. Improvisation is at its core with Mathiszik describing the trio’s creative process thus;

“The majority of the tracks started life with my ambient and loop-based guitar improvisations. I’d put my guitar through a series of machines and electronics which would then mess it up to a point where the new signal would become a new source of inspiration to play off. I subsequently edited these tracks and sent them to Dave De Rose in London, with the instruction to record one all improvised drum takes in response to my tracks, without any pre-listening, and with no click, etc.
Dave has an amazing capability to improvise drums in a way that actually suggests a kind of dramaturgy, even concrete forms in some cases. That made it easy for me to add some new layers on top of his takes and based on his suggested musical cues. Still, things were left wide open, there were barely fixed tonalities for example at this point. We then invited George to contribute sax on some tracks, again, in one or two spontaneously improvised takes. I then added bass, additional synths and electronic layers in one last round, this time interpreting harmonies implied by George’s melodic playing.
It was the first time I had worked in this way. The difficult situation of the pandemic made me learn a new compositional technique of writing off other contributor’s live improvisations. It was an investigative journey into the possibilities and boundaries of collaborating with musicians that are separated in time and space”. 

Although he trained as a guitarist Mathiszik is best considered as a ‘sound artist’ for whom electronics and processing perform a vital role in his music making. He draws inspiration from vintage Krautrock, contemporary electronica and more, with artists as diverse as Miles Davis, Sun Ra and Joy Division also suggested as influences. Thus there are few conventional guitar sounds on the album, which commences with “Stalagmit”, listed on the cassette image as a ‘bonus track’. It acts as a kind of ‘overture’ for the rest of the album and features electronic sounds suggestive of the ocean depths as high register sonar like sounds dance and float around deeper, glitchy rumblings, presumably generated by drums and sax, but sounding like neither. It’s surprisingly delicate, beautiful and calming.

The first ‘real’ track is “Blubberplanet 1”, which continues the deep sea ambience but introduces more conventional drum and cymbal sounds. Crowley’s looped sax is also more recognisable and adds a welcome dash of melody to Mathiszik’s ambient soundscapes.

“Mission to find a Christmas tree on Mars” introduces more readily discernible rhythms as De Rose combines with Mathiszik’s electric bass to create a genuine groove. It’s the leader’s elastic bass lines that invite that Joy Division comparison. The press release compares the track with a space journey, with the rhythms ‘slaloming around oncoming meteorites in a Surrealist quest’. This actually sums it very well as electronic textures swirl around the pulsing rhythms.

Side A concludes with “F# politics”, another piece that incorporates relatively conventional electric bass and drum grooves, allied to guitar and a barrage of analogue synths. The babble of the various synthesisers is intended to depict “a superheated debate in the chamber of the cosmos”. Again it’s a pretty accurate description of a piece that moves through a series of dynamic variations, but which contains some of the trio’s most ‘in yer face’ playing thus far.

Side B commences with “Nebula”, which begins with gentle electronic pulses from deep space that mutate into a martial drum groove, allied to another Peter Hook style bass line. It’s all topped off by Crowley’s mellifluous sax, which is subject to a little judicious electronic manipulation as the piece progresses. Although grounded in improvisation it’s a piece that almost sounds as if it could have been pre-composed and is the trio’s most straightforwardly melodic offering thus far, inviting comparisons with the music of Portico Quartet.

“Take That Drone Off My Lawn” combines electronically and manually generated beats, plus another Peter Hook style bass line. An implacable groove allied to Doppler style electronic effects offers the suggestion that some form of journey is being undertaken. Again it’s a highly accessible piece with a strong focus on groove and melody, and also on colour and texture.

The album concludes with “Blubberplanet II”, which clocks in at virtually twice the length of its companion piece. Crowley’s sax plays a greater role on this version, which takes inspiration from the music of Sun Ra as ambient soundscaping combines with jazz improvisation. De Rose supplies a floating drum pulse as Crowley’s echoed sax wails softly in the cosmos, bathed in a wash of electronica.

When I first approached this album I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it, but overall I found myself very impressed with IWIC’s music, a sound that defies categorisation. Combining elements of jazz, rock and electronica it’s probably fair to refer to it as ‘space jazz’, but a ‘space jazz’  with its roots in European music traditions rather than the Afro-Futurism of Sun Ra.

Whilst Crowley, and particularly De Rose, make strong contributions the triumph is ultimately Mathiszik’s. It’s his skill and vision as a sound artist and editor that ultimately combine to sculpt the trio’s improvisations into more structured sounding pieces and help to create a coherent album overall.

Despite its origins in improvisation this is not a jazz album per se and as such may not suit the ears of jazz purists. However it’s a recording that fans of electronic music and of adventurous rock music are likely to enjoy. There’s also a healthy dollop of prog in there too and those of a certain age might variously be reminded of Kraftwerk, Fripp & Eno, Hawkwind or Van Der Graaf Generator.

“Kiss My Emoji Ring” is available via the tier.debut bandcamp page.

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