| HE CAN JOG | Middlemarch
Time: June 08
Media: CD & Digital Download
Info: Featuring a buzz of rarefied audio excitement,
engaging melodies and detailed beats Middlemarch
radiates with charm and beauty.
PDF Press Release: Download
|QUESTIONS | He Can Jog
Who are you?
Why do you write music?
I try not to think about that too much. If I really got into it I
might dig out some mortality fears and embarrassing
ego motivations. One thing I've known for a long time
though is that sound makes sense to me, and it's
immensely rewarding to shuffle it around in some
pleasant way, and challenge my ear as much as I can
in that process. As much as they are aesthetic interests
music and sound are social and cultural interests to me
as well. The ritual purposes they serve (even in our
modern, toaster- oven world!) are fascinating and vital,
and are my favorite entry points to cultures and
communities. So to answer the question: I have no idea
How would you describe your music?
My music is probably the dilettante or autodidact that the
other refined and popular musics turn their noses up at
and take pity on for its mawkish naivety. It is all of my
life and the people I've met, the things I've heard, and
my total lack of understanding, stirred into what I hope
is a digestible sonic porridge.
What does this album mean to you?
This album is as much a culmination of a decade of my
life and the intersections I've made along the way as it
is a collection of songs and sounds. For me it's very
much a comfortable audio document of most of the last
decade. It feels like picking up a scrapbook to go back
and listen to it, and that's usually the context I return to
it in. When someone other than me listens, it also
becomes the living potential for an unknowable set of
new memories and associations, which is incredibly
humbling and exciting to me.
Can you elaborate on some of your creative
Meticulously planned accidents and failures are my
specialties. I tend to develop elaborate plans that
explode spectacularly in my face when I attempt to
carry them out. The fun part is taking the leftover
detritus and molding it into something workable. That
process of transformation can be incredibly frustrating
and kill a project before it has a chance to breathe, but
in some cases I can end up with something I couldn't
have otherwise planned or imagined. The other answer
is that I use Logic and Max/MSP and Reason on my
Macbook to manipulate recordings I make of myself or
friends. I'm playing more instruments these days too,
which feels good: trombone, celeste, lap steel, violin,
harmonica, hand bells, and other found objects are the
instruments I can barely play.
What are your future plans?
I plan to stay in New York for the foreseeable future
and hopefully tour more as He Can Jog and with my
band Cedar AV. If I plan my life more than that, it may
explode in my face as well. ;-)
|PROMO VIDEO | He Can Jog
|REVIEWS | Middlemarch
XLR8R WEEKLY TOP 10
The cover of this disc–a girl clad in white standing in a bleak, wintery woodland–hints at the contents of
this release, the latest from Midwest-born producer Erik Schoster. Combining dreamy pop music with
experimental electronics (not to mention an arsenal of bells, harps, acoustic guitars, laptop-processed
bleeps, and static), he has created an album that would please both laptop scientists and kids wanting
something pretty to listen to while driving a car. And yes, the album is named after the George Eliot novel.
THE SILENT BALLET
I was never familiar with He Can Jog - in fact, I had never even heard of the Brooklyn based experimental
techno jockey until I took on MiddleMarch. Dear lord, was I missing out.
MiddleMarch is a glorious mishmash of kinky synths and danceable beats, endlessly hooking the listener
into toe-tapping, mind-boggling, ear-blasting euphoria. A laptop musician extraordinaire, He Can Jog's music
has the production quality of a full blown studio release from Warp, without losing the home-made, DIY
character that amateur computer musicians round the world strive for. His cuts are progressive without
losing the edge and focus of rhythm and structure that keeps a listener wanting more. MiddleMarch owes
a lot to acts like Proem and The Flashbulb, who moved techno and IDM away from the Audiovisual Club
mentality of gear-over-substance and focused on making the music fun, catchy, and real.
That sense of reality is what will keep me listening to He Can Jog for many, many months. The powerful,
staggering presence of warmth and texture in MiddleMarch is beautifully jarring compared to last year.
2007 was a year of cold, heartless electronica. 2008 is proving completely different, delivering sensible
electronic acts with a slew of raw, personal offerings. The four part suite series on MiddleMarch is
reason alone to call He Can Jog the next Benn Jordann or Aaron Funk. I know comparing an unestablished
bedroom producer to these gods of the modern electronic realm might seem a tad drastic, but there is no doubt
in my mind that He Can Jog will aspire to meet and even exceed the achievements of these artists, and in no
time will prove himself as a force to be reckoned with in the coming years.
I do hate drawing such blatant comparisons when He Can Jog's sound is incredibly original, but I will say
that the excitement and enthusiasm brought to the table on MiddleMarch reminds me of Arctic Hospital, my
favorite new star in the electronic world, though He Can Jog is not a distant second by any means. I've said
it before and I'll say it again: the place to find tomorrow's stars is Audiobulb Records. The label knows exactly
what makes the digital music world tick. Well done, He Can Jog. Well done.
RATED: 9.5 / 10
reviewed by Larry Johnson
He Can Jog is sound sculptor (and co-director of the Luvsound netlabel) Erik Schoster from Madison,
Wisconsin. If you visit his website you’ll notice that it’s interestingly subtitled “homebrewed Midwestern
electronic nonsense” with the word “nonsense” being used (at least to my way of thinking) in the context
of “fun noise.” Some four years in the making, Middlemarch is Erik’s debut release on Audiobulb and provides
yet another instance of the label’s commitment to releasing exceptional exploratory electronic music.
Even though He Can Jog is an anagram of John Cage, Erik’s compositions are no where close to being
Cageian-like. The music on Middlemarch (named after the classic George Elliot novel) is a heartfelt,
entertaining, and perplexing flurry of sonic excitement consisting of warm melodies, lively broken-beats,
occasional vocals, and flickering tones inspired by the intersections of intimate collections of memories. It's
a whimsical blend of folk-pop influences, IDM flavorings, and hazy ambient textures. Erik's method of
composing makes use of software programming, acoustic instrument samples, electronic production, and
improvisation via the manipulation of sounds using custom-built patches.
I have to admit that Middlemarch is not the usual kind of experimental electronic music that I listen to or review.
After receiving the promo copy and hearing it or the first time, I had pretty much decided that it was not
something that I could write about. However, I’ve learned that first impressions are quite often deceiving and
found that to be the case here. Repeated listening and a thorough reading of the notes that accompanied the
disc revealed an underlying richness in compositional style/content and emotional intensity that one casual
listening just doesn’t reveal. So here's an album of serious, skillfully composed experimental electronic music
that's able to bring a smile to my face by simply being exciting, entertaining, uplifting, and just plain fun to listen
While some listeners might at least initially be put off by the quirky blend of folk, pop, IDM, and ambient
elements that went into the making of the nine eclectic works comprising Middlemarch, a little more unbiased
and considerate listening will reveal the same compositional vitality and emotional depth that I came to realize.
Middlemarch is an important release for Erik personally being as it is a kind of sonic memoir detailing a few
years of his life, and he "counts the whole record as a catalogue of these memories of people and places
and his own process of becoming."
A fine example of modern electronica, He Can Jog's Middlemarch is a boldly diverse set of compositions,
tackling dronescapes, digital glitch textures and even vocal electronic pop to a consistently high standard.
At He Can Jog's creative epicentre is Erik Schoster, who combines the offline conventions of electronic
composition with real-time improvisation via customised MAX patches. This combination of different disciplines
results in the raw bitstream ambience of 'Agnes (After Woodland Pattern)' or 'A Small Thing' whilst also
bringing forth the melodic, beat-driven sounds of 'Suite Part Three'. There's an adventurously unpolished feel to
all this that suggests an abandonment of presets or software clichés, freeing up Schoster to switch things
around on wildly divergent consecutive tracks like 'Contractors And Architects', with its borderline Postal
Service-isms and 'Suite Parts One And Two', which approaches Keith Fullerton Whitman levels of sublime
electroacoustic drone. Highly recommended.
The strangely named He Can Jog is one of the many projects of Brooklyn-based sound artist Erik Schoster
who focuses primarily on textural sound explorations. Originally from Madison, Wisconsin, Schoster spent
his formative years studying composition and improvisations. In the last four years, he has released a handful
of MP3 EPs and his work has also been featured on a few compilations, including on no less than four from
Sheffield’s excellent Audiobulb, which have been nurturing his talent for some time. It is therefore only fair that
they got to release Middlemarch, the follow up to his debut album, New Ground Has Not Broken, Soil Last Week
And Dirt Today, released in 2004.
Right from the onset of Suite Part Four, which opens, Schoster establishes an elegant laptopestry made of
interferences, glitches and statics upon which he builds subtle little melodic pieces which often develop into
gentle layered miniature symphonies, usually contained within three-to-five minute compositions. The album
seems articulated around the four Suites, beginning, as mentioned above with Part Four, Suite Part Three
following a couple of tracks in and the epic Suite Parts One And Two, which closes the album. The remaining
compositions stand very well on their own however, whether it is the short interludes Dials, with its minimal
drone-like setting, or A Small Thing, with its bubbling statics and embryo of melody which originally fails to
develop, but finally comes to life on Contractors And Architects, the only vocal track on the album, or with
more fully formed tracks. Surprisingly upbeat and clearly defined against the rest of the album, the refined
Suite Part Three is in part reminiscent of Four Tet circa Pause, but this is in no way a criticism as Schoster
does this kind of things rather well. My (Mother’s) Records, which follows, combines processed acoustic
guitars, found sounds and sliced vocal samples into a much tightly woven ball of sounds.
The album then veers toward slightly darker and colder grounds with Agnes (After Woodland Pattern) and
Pan-Fried Fern, which, although remaining sonically close to the rest of the album, appear to echo the foggy
atmosphere of the cover photograph, which shows a young girl, bare feet, walking in a wintry woodland.
The piece de resistance of Middlemarch comes with concluding piece Suite Parts One And Two, which
develops over twelve and a half minutes and two distinct sections, the first one appearing like a stripped
down version of the second, where Schoster deploys the richest soundscapes and melodies of the record.
With Middlemarch, He Can Jog’s Erik Schoster has created a rather beautiful and intimate record which delights
and charms all the way through, thanks to carefully crafted sound formations and melodies which continuously
grow and develop. Middlemarch is one of these records that procure continuous listening pleasure by
somehow giving the impression of never sounding quite the same twice.
He Can Jog – a nifty little anagram of John Cage, perhaps takes some of its influence from the Great Man in
terms of innovative solutions and skewed approaches. This is a charming, engaging little piece that invites
instant comparisons to Brit minimalist composers, The Boats, or Mole Harness. U.S based Erik Schoster is the
personality behind He Can Jog, and on Middlemarch, we see him inviting a cluster of musicians to augment
and filter through his works. Most prominent are the cut and paste-type pieces that use fractured harmonies,
and layered beats and blips. There are a variety of solutions on display here, that echo a truly post modern
canvas, covering everything from the dripping melancholia of “Agnes (after woodland pattern)”, with its
soothing harmonics and lilting loops, to the itchy minimalism of “Pan – Fried Fern”.” “Contractors and Architects”
is essentially a mini pop melody, infused with vocals from Nick Sanborn, and has an infectious, bubbly refrain,
with little of the rest of the album’s cut and slice approach.
Throughout the collection, there are various surreal interruptions and interventions, oddly placed narratives, and
words appearing as if from nowhere, that locate themselves outside of the pieces, yet somehow cohere with it
at the same time. Non-linearity is the order of the day, with each narrative being spliced and grafted onto other
elements in an unsettling, but highly engaging assemblage. To use the word “collage” would perhaps be a little
trite, but this is indeed a fresh and expertly crafted CD that takes digital composition to some kind of logical
extreme. If this is the future of modern composition, then count me in, and once again, Audiobulb asserts itself
as a highly intelligent, innovative promoter of the digital (and post –digital) aesthetic. BGN
A generally inviting exercise in warm electronic melodicism, MiddleMarch by He Can Jog (yes, the title
purposefully references George Eliot's novel and the alias adopted by laptop knob-twiddler and one-time
trombonist Erik Schoster is an anagram of John Cage) inverts the usual template by spreading beats more
freely over songs anchored by emotive keyboard melodies—but that's just one of the oblique strategies
Schoster brings to the table. Accompanied by a handful of guests (who contribute Rhodes, Vibes and guitar
samples, field recordings, and vocals), Schoster works a community theme into the album (hence the title
choice) as it documents not only the evolution in his working methods—sampling, software programming,
and electronic synthesis all figure in—over a four-year span, but also his interpersonal experiences during
Some pieces are experimental and explorative in character: a collage-like scattering of elements constitutes
“My (Mother's) Records” (not entirely successfully either, as dropping the line “The songs we're now hearing
are ancient tunes” into its middle seems a little too cute), and deeply textured masses of flickering starbursts
flow through “Agnes (After Woodland Pattern),” “Pan-Fried Fern,” and “A Small Thing.” More immediately
appealing is the material that gravitates towards sparkling electronic pop: “Contractors and Architects,”
composed and sung by Nick Sanborn, could pass for a sample track by Morr Music's latest signing, while
the keyboard melodies in “Suite Part Three” could single-handedly lull the crankiest infant to sleep. Both
tendencies coalesce in the twelve-minute meditation “Suites Part One and Two” whose becalmed
arrangement of glistening bells and tonal shimmer closes the album strongly.
With the anagrammatized moniker 'He Can Jog', sound artist Erik Schoster pays tribute to John Cage, master
and seminal experimenter. Cage remains an essential point of reference, especially for those who still
wonder about the complex compositional structures in contemporary music. It's not by chance, then, that in
'Middlemarch' the attention seems focused on texture, gently twisted by glitches, interferences and clicks,
creating a dreamy atmosphere, never trivial, but sensitive and delicate. It is high quality laptop music, with
some "pop" taste and nuanced electronica that combines well with Bryan Teoh images [equally rarefied and
multifaceted] during live performances. The record was composed using Max/MSP. The tracks present
different attitudes in a painstaking and intricate way, without ever "punishing" the listener. It's minimalism
and melody colliding in floating sonorities, a little melancholic, mixed with ambient and folk.
THE WIRE (293)
He Can Jog is an anagram of John Cage, but thankfully that's as groanworthy as Madison, Winsconsin's Erik
Schoster's solo album gets. The album takes its title from the George Eliot novel because it is about how one
develops as a person through interaction with a particular community. Schoster draws on his own memories of
friends and acquaintances in Winsconsin and Milwaukee, where he also spends some of his time. Despite its
irregular rhythmic intervals and heavy, thorough treatments, using, for example, custom programmed Max
patches and sampled acoustic instruments, the overall effect of Middlemarch is benign. This is fine, because
what the album is really about is memories and memory associations - the way recollections of people and
places are filtered, preserved, distorted and cherished. The music reflects that in the stresses, overdubs and
processes it has undergone, most sublimely on "Agnes (After Woodland Patern)".
IGLOO MAGAZINE Brooklyn-based sound artist Erik Schoster is the man behind the quirkily dubbed He Can Jog - a playful
scrambling of the letters in 'John Cage.' Appositely named in that Middlemarch is itself both quirky and
playful in equal measure, mixed with moments of greater gravitas to form a sad-happy combo of sideways
-on wistful pop instrumentalism and mercurial experimental electronica. Schoster's stock-in-trade is the
cut-and-paste splice'n'dice aesthetic, within which he creates collages with fractured harmonies, layered
beats, and a gallimaufry of harps, acoustic guitars, bells and whistles (ok, hold the whistles).
Those of literary bent will have picked up on the symbolism of Middlemarch - a titular borrowing from George
Eliot's novel - emblematic of a theme of personal development through community interaction. Schoster
evidently draws on his memories of past friends for the moments of emotional caché in a nostalgia-steeped
excursion (he also deploys some of them as guest musicians). Right from the onset of opener, "Suite Part
Four," Schoster seeks to tailor a winsome laptopiary of error-driven tonalities and static-streaked backgrounds
against which to project his melodic miniatures. Despite its episodic rhythms and heavy-duty digi re-dos (Max-ed
out MSP), Middlemarch has about it an air of affectionate engagement.
Structurally, the album seems articulated around four so-called 'Suites,' the opening "...Part Four" and the
concluding "...Parts One and Two" acting as bookends. The remainder are largely episodic sketches, ranging
from the lull-a-tone melancholics of "Agnes (After Woodland Pattern)," to the nervous glitchery of "Pan-fried Fern"
to the toytown indietronica of "Contractors and Architects" - out of Morr Music via The Postal Service. This latter
infelicity, along with one or two others, are indicative of critical faculties going AWOL; as, again, when software
and cut-up fetishism are overindulged on "My (Mother's) Records," processed guitar, found sounds and vocal
fragments sliced up into a glitch-cum-turntablist mash-up of little effect other than enervation. The short interludes
"Dials," with its minimal drone-like setting, and "A Small Thing," with its play of static and melody are more likeable,
as is the blithe and breezy refinement of "Suite Part Three," a more solidly rhythmic composition bearing echoes
of The Album Leaf or mid-period Four Tet.
The ludic playroom air of much of He Can Jog has a heady froth/frothy head. But it's vitiated by a lack of 'body'
registering increasingly at the album's (lack of) centre. This seems to have set in until the album's final musical act,
a less mannered two-hander of harmonious glisten and shimmer spread over 12+ minutes. Digi-doodle tendencies
reined in, He Can Jog here comes on like Keith Fullerton Whitman in a more expansive electro-acoustic drone-drift
mode, "Suite Parts One and Two" being good enough to require an adjustment of egg idiom in final appraisal:
Middlemarch - not a bad one, more like the curate's... Good in parts.
He Can Jog hinges upon the notion that one needs others in order to think for oneself - that the enrichment
of thought depends on encounters with others and their involvements in life. Ergo the albums content, which
revolves around the distortion, confusion, and invention brought about by others, but also its form: a tightly-knit
community of prickly guitars, trills of synths, percolating electronics and seesawing fuzz.
Above all, though, the music breathes; vocals run up against and are cut-up into pointillist beats, rebounding
percussive loops mesh with swarms of high pitches, and keyboard lines spring up from their reverie to provide
arpeggiated counterpoint to warm, wooden knocking and nagging, choppy cascades of electronics. There’s
something of a taste for dramatic assemblage, too, with Erik Schoster often forming clean, glistening melodies
like oysters forming around grit. “Suite Part Four”, for one, creates a maze of ethereal harmonics, in which a
warm, near-celebratory bell pattern circles around itself as though in a daze, before the whole thing is broken
open by a propulsive plastic rhythm.
Schoster often switches between styles with some skill, but occasionally their combination proves problematic,
as there’s a certain tentativeness in the music that is probably the result of the attempt to find commonalities in
the musics various participants. The odd piece, such as “My (Mothers) Records”, thus sounds like a less than
favorable compromise. Among others, though, the twelve minute closer, “Suite Parts One and Two”, reasserts
the strong suites of this digital etherealism - its tolling bells and a computerized firestorm hover over and rain
down on a churning drone, evoking the massive presence of an environment awaking from hibernation.
US-based composer Erik Schoster brings his latest guise "He Can Jog" (anagram of the great experimental
composer Johnny Cage) in a brilliantly organic album composition titled "Middlemarch". One third of the
Milwaukee trio "Cedar AV", Erik studies composition formally under Erica Mather and Joanne Metcalf and
improvisation with Matt Turner and Jennifer Fitzgerald at Lawrence University.
Middlemarch's Highlights are certainly "Suite part Three" with its rolling, warm Rhodes trills and engaging
beats and effects. "Agnes" holds a real organic, truly free and ambient feel and "contractors" is a wonderful
example of true glitch without being messy with its intricate beats and Hot Chip style vocals. "Suite parts one
and two" expand on the ambiance with its glacial synths, soft noise and reversed, detuned twangs and
Some very sweet moments of audio mastery and experimentation, complex textures and beats make this
album a actual joy and distinct discovery of sound. In truth not an album for everyone, but a real innovation
to those who crave something new and out of the ordinary. Not a genre breaker as such but a good
contender for electronic creativity. Reminiscent of Four Tet, but unique enough to carry itself off as a
good album. Well produced and an honest thrill to listen to.
8 / 10
SILENT BALLET - ELECTRONICA 2008
Just when the electronic scene was becoming a bit stagnant, overrun with minimal copyist or electro fodder, out
of nowhere comes He Can Jog with his delightful Middlemarch. The ambient hum of “Agnes (After Woodland
Pattern)” sits next to the Postal Service-esque pop of “Contractors and Architects” while everything in between,
from IDM to minimal, is executed with great aplomb. While still rooted in IDM nostalgia, there is an organic quality
lying deep within Middlemarch that makes it inherently accessible, real and, ultimately, enjoyable. (James Ould)
He Can Jog is an anagram of John Cage. It's the name chosen by Erik Schoster from Madison, Wisconsin. He
studied composition and improvisation and plays with Cedar AV. His music is entirely made on the computer,
and if you know what this label released before then you may already have an idea what he Can Jog is about.
Bouncy beats, here even more than elsewhere, samples of guitars, voices, a bit of ambient. If I honest I say
that I was reading this mornings newspaper when I put this on and I thought it was quite alright background
music, but when I started writing, replaying, and listening more carefully, I thought it was a bit less than what
I first anticipated. It sounds all a bit worn out. The Oval approaches, the Fennesz bendings, the IDM broken
beats, the funny weirdness. Maybe I am getting too old for this line of musical business, but however nice this
is, it just didn't do too much for me. (FdW)
Audiobulb Is an exploratory music label designed to support the work of innovative artists.
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