Jack Briece :: Heterophonious Fool

Jed Bindeman’s label Concentric Circles is part reissue imprint, part search and rescue unit. A few years ago, he stumbled upon the only known copy of a cassette of delicate shoegaze/synth-folk by UK-born, Bay Area-based artist Carola Baer at a Goodwill Outlet in Portland, Oregon, where it was likely headed for a recycling center or a landfill. Enamored with what he heard, Bindeman tracked Baer down and worked with her to release a compilation of her home recordings in 2018 called The Story of Valerie

There’s a similar story for how he came to re-release Heterophonious Fool, a 1984 collection of off balance pieces performed by the late composer Jack Briece using an inexpensive Casio synthesizer. Originally available in a short run of 50 cassettes, Bindeman found it amid a collection that he bought for potential sale at Little Axe, the record store he co-owns. 

Unlike Baer, Briece is slightly more well-known. The curious, multidisciplinary artist balanced his short time on this planet (he passed away in 1988 due to AIDS-related illness at age 43) producing his own work and amplifying the efforts of other composers from around the world—with an especial affinity for the music being made in Finland. Briece was also fearless in his embrace of new technology, which informed his stirring video art and the pieces found on Heterophonious Fool

Another interest of Briece’s was astrology and the I Ching, the latter of which he used to help make the musical decisions found on Heterophonious Fool. It’s that element of chance that gives this material its unbound, almost mischievous energy. “Arousing Wind and Thunder” tumbles and glides like someone trying to traverse a frozen lake in tennis shoes, and the splattering tones of “Pushup Words and Food” could be a soundtrack to an early 16-bit video game. The closest Briece gets to something traditional is “In Eight,” which opens with a harmonious pair of melodies that is eventually slashed through with a jazzy diffusion of notes and a tinny rhythm that stays just ahead of the beat in a manner that is either frustrating or enchanting, depending on your mood. 

Were this available more widely when it was released, there’s no telling what influence it could have had on electronic music and modern composition. Briece presaged the Analord-era Aphex Twin, the open system chaos of Mark Fell, and some of Björk’s more experimental moments. Bindeman and Concentric Circles has given Heterophonious Fool its proper due, which bodes well for its potential impact on a new generation of listeners and artists alike. words/r ham

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