I've stated it before in reviews that I've written that sometimes I feel that artists simply let noise and filters get the best of their work, ocassionally obscuring the best parts of it. Like his labelmate Christian Fennesz, the releases that I'd heard previously (including the near-excellent Stoke) from Philip Jeck had largely fallen into that category. Although I liked some of what he was doing and certainly respected his tactile craft (working from numerous turntables run through pedals), there were moments in many of his older releases that simply turned me off.
That is very rarely the case with 7, and in addition to easily being his most accessible work to date, I feel that it's also his best. With 7 tracks running nearly 50 minutes, the release exudes a pastoral calm most of the time that is amazingly beautiful. The opening track of "Wholesome" is a perfect example, mixing soft washes of sound with what sounds like filtered chimes before slow, heavier melodies plod in and make their mark like the first footprints through a freshly fallen snow. The track builds ever-so-slightly in intensity by the end, but even the feedback is subdued, and if the middle part of the track is footprints being made, the closing is them being swallowed up by blowing snow again.
"Museum" starts out lovely as well before it is swallowed by overdriven noise, but somehow the woofer-wobbling noise is never too harsh while an almost classical melody rises out of the redlined beast towards the end. "Now You Can Let Go" is one of the least drifting tracks on the disc as it sounds like several different short loops get stuck in an almost glitchy way as slide guitar and maybe even a loop from a musical toy with one another before boat calls sound out and the track slides through even more sections. It's the most frenetic (if you could call it that) track on the release, and a beat even makes its way into the mix towards the close.
Following the gritty looped feedback of "Bush Hum" (the only track on the album that steps over the noise threshold), the former track makes the middle of the album a slight high before the disc again quiets down. The closing track of "Veil" is a 10-minute narcotic knockout punch as it creeps along with a building filtered string loop that plays over a dark drone. It's one of the best things that Jeck has done to date, and in addition to the other tracks on the release, it makes 7 one of the better ambient releases I've heard this year. If you've wondered about Jeck in the past but haven't sought him out, this is the album to find first. With his methodical process, he turns the work of typical turntablists and DJs on its head and creates something unique and often moving at the same time.