Philip Jeck, celebrated experimental composer and turntablist, dies aged 69

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  • The English artist passed away last Friday after a short illness.
  • Philip Jeck, celebrated experimental composer and turntablist, dies aged 69 image
  • Philip Jeck, celebrated experimental composer, performer and turntablist, died aged 69 on Friday, March 25th. Touch, the UK label that released the bulk of Jeck's work, broke the news via his website. He passed away "peacefully on Friday after a short illness," according to the short message. "A remarkable man and a wonderful artist, he has been one of the kingpins of our work for 30 years." Born in Cambridge, England, in 1952, Jeck studied visual art at Dartington College of Arts. In 1979, he visited New York for what would prove a hugely inspirational trip, taking in DJ sets from the likes of Walter Gibbons and Larry Levan. Their ways of mixing and manipulating vinyl led to Jeck experimenting with his own decks back in England. The pioneering work of two other New York DJs, Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash, also left a deep mark. But rather than hit the clubs, Jeck began using turntables as instruments, sampling and looping to create compositions. He sought out dusty vinyl and antique record players from junk shops and car boot sales in London, Stoke and beyond. This obsession formed the basis of his most famous work, Vinyl Requiem, alongside visual artist Lol Sargent. The piece was written for 180 vintage Dansette turntables, 12 slide projectors and two movie projectors. The London-born poet and academic cris cheek was a close friend and collaborator of Jeck's. According to a lengthy Facebook post honouring his friend, they met in 1981 through the dance scene in London. "Phil's partner Mary Prestidge was abroad and while the cat was away we met up at their flat in Peckham and recorded hours of improvisations using Dansettes, radios [and] cassette recorders, and listened end on end to extended mixes by Walter Gibbons, Larry Levan, Lee Scratch Perry and anything else we [could] eagerly snaffle up," he wrote. Jeck's music often soundtracked dance performances, both on stage and on screen. He worked particularly closely with dancer Laurie Booth, and made music with Gavin Bryars, Jah Wobble, Can's Jaki Liebezeit, Fennesz, David Sylvian and Janek Schaefer, among others. In 1995, Jeck signed to Touch, releasing beloved albums such as Surf (1999), Stoke (2002) and 7 (2003). Overall, he put out ten LPs through the label, plus two on Intermedium Records. His work found a fan in the revered cultural theorist Mark Fisher, who considered him part of the hauntology movement alongside the likes of Burial and The Caretaker. "But with Philip it was never just the work, more the love, the spirit and the dedication," Touch's message continued. "He touched so many with his wit, his zest for life and his wisdom." For cheek, it was Jeck's unbounded creativity that stood him apart. "Philip had a profoundly musical and often collagist imagination, able to conjure a sense of speculative place and carry a shared experience with rare and generous flair," he wrote. "He leaves a shimmering catalogue that models what creative practice can mean. Phil brought so much to life. I loved him." Watch Jeck perform Vinyl Requiem on the BBC in 1992.
    Read Cheek's post in full and some more tributes.