Gareth Davis, Jan and Romke Kleefstra – Tongerswel


When I reviewed the very first Piiptsjilling release way back in 2008, I wrote it deserved “to be heard in and outside of Friesland (or Holland, for that matter)”. In no way I could have imagined that the combination of Frisian poetry and dreamy improvisational soundscapes would gain international recognision to this extent. 

It’s quite a remarkable feat for “local” music like this to be featured in the October Wire issue on a single advertising page, combining three respectable labels (Home Normal, Experimedia, and Hibernate) promoting different albums by the Kleefstra brothers: Deislieper, Wurdskrieme and Tongerswel, respectively!

It’s quite hard to keep up with these Kleefstra releases!
But still, I advise to do so, because every single one of these release is impressive! 

Take Tongerswel, for instance, recently released on the Home Normal label, curated by Ian Hawgood. 

I guess I best let the release notes speak for itself, because to be honest I have nothing to add to that: “Picture a winters day in the low, vast and flat fields of the Netherlands. An old farm between some trees, in the Frisian lake district, big flocks of geese around the barnyard. Inside the farm a warm studio where Davis and the Kleefstra’s first play and directly record in person together. “

“In the studio the bass clarinet of Gareth and the guitar of Romke whirled carefully around each other. It resulted in sparse sounds by both instruments; minimal music with an experimental whiff, acoustic, patiently moving, melancholic and dreamy. The quiet moments give space for the modest spoken words by Jan, in the old native language of Frisian.”

“Tongerswel takes you down to the rural coasts of the Frisian lakesides where the album was recorded. To stare into the far distance of the endless plain of this watery world, with nothing but high cloudy skies. A perfect soundtrack for a walk in silence.”

Dreamy poetry by Jan Kleefstra, only to be understood when you speak Frysian yet the message transcends easily (and lucky for us the text is translated in English in the liner notes), effective atmospheric guitar backgrounds by Romke Kleefsta, coloured by the deep sax details added by Gareth Davis

Is this “dutch” music?
In a way, maybe, and I’m really proud of that (even though I live in a rural area called Randstad which is in no way comparable to the landscape of Friesland where the Kleefstra’s and their music come from, and even though I cannot understand a word of the Frysian language myself).
But the page from the October Wire also effectively illustrates that this is not local music, but that it has a worldwide appeal to anyone that can feel the message: this may be the call of nature.

Kleefstra, Davis, Kleefstra – Tongerswel (Common Swift)

Spotify– (Also on Spotify)

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