Michel Banabila * Rutger Zuydervelt/Machinefabriek

The Unreal Realm


A new album by one of my long-time favorite artists, Michel Banabila, is always a welcome surprise. And this one does not disappoint!
Mostly, The Unreal Realm presents rather contemplative music – perhaps even dark at some moments. This is especially the case in the compositions that were commissioned for new choreographies by Yin Yue: three tracks for ‘Somewhere‘ (which will be premiered in New York in June this year), and another two for ‘Timeless Tide’ (which premiered recently in Columbus, US). The music for these dance performances is hauntingly dynamic. In longer tracks (up to 15 minutes) Banabila takes his time slowly leading us to intense sound climaxes – and back again into the quiet.

Apart from the music for these choreographies, the album is further completed with four tracks. Two of those were previously released as digital singles: one with Pierre Bastien and the other with Dave Liebman.
Bogus Dominion and Inward Spiral are two (aptly named) collaborations with Mete Erker and Machinefabriek (Rutger Zuydervelt) respectively.

The title of the album, The Unreal Realm, refers to the hypocrisy of Western society. Recent turmoil in the world is a major concern to Banabila, who recently released an instrumental single with Cengiz Arslanpay called Stop The Genocide! End The Occupation Now. Some of this album may express this concern at its darkest moments. But never too explicitly – so, ironically, it is a great pleasure to listen to.



I’ll assume Rutger (‘Machinefabriek‘) Zuydervelt needs no further introduction here. In his massive back-catalogue of music, there are quite some original scores for choreographies or other performances. Usually, these are presented under his own name, as is this one: Kites – Music For A Performance By Roshanak Morrowatian. Kites is the first score Zuydervelt created for Morrowatian. It premiered in 2021, but it is only now released as an album.

Roshanak Morrowatian is an Iranian dancer, choreographer, and actor working from Maastricht (NL). She previously worked with people like Marina Abramovic and Pina Bausch. Her Kites performance deals with her own experience: “What is it like to have to flee your homeland at a young age and grow up in an asylum seekers’ centre, in a ‘limbo’ between past and future?”

Zuydervelt’s score is mainly instrumental, but some of Roshanak’s experiences are voiced in the piece Places, which features her own voice.


Zuydervelt‘s music has no roots in Iranian culture. Still, in this score, he manages to create the feeling of total displacement – especially by subtly incorporating fragments of some Iranian hit songs from a cassette he got from Roshanak’s parents. He adds “I hope they do not sound too Fourth World-ish”. I personally love a good ‘Fourth World sound’, but indeed this is nothing like that. As far as I can tell without having seen the performance, I feel that this score perfectly conveys the message that Morrowatian intended with her performance.

Edge Of Oblivion


I could easily fill this whole blog with the music of Rutger Zuydervelt (or Michel Banabila, for that matter) – sometimes it is hard to choose. But since these two albums are released almost simultaneously, I may as well mention Zuydervelt‘s collaboration with French artist Bruno Duplant.
It’s not the first time these two worked together: in 2020 they released their collaboration album L’incertitude; followed with Synchronicité in 2021.

With current high-speed connections, artists can collaborate without meeting each other in real-time. But for Duplant and Zuydervelt, this approach wasn’t satisfactory:
Bruno sent me his parts, and I added mine. And we were happy. Until we weren’t and decided to shake things up a little: Bruno’s parts were trashed, keeping only my whizzing sci-fi noises. A slab of organ was then thrown into the mix, adding a sense of menace and unease with its atonal tone clusters. Some more editing and
fine (de)tuning was done, et voila…”

The result is a 36-minute ‘heavy disorienting trip’ indeed! One that can best be experienced in half-dark with speakers on full-blast, or with a quality headset. Don’t know what the edge of oblivion looks like, but now we know what it may sound like.

A Looming Presence


We come full circle with A Looming Presence – the sixth collaboration album of Michel Banabila and Machinefabriek (Rutger Zuydervelt, this time using his alias). And it is a pleasant surprise once again: quite different from the previous albums they made together, but still undeniably the kind of work only théy can create.

The first thing I noticed is that most of these tracks are heavily rhythm-oriented, with just a few exceptions (such as the title track and the quiet Oumuamua). The music is playful, but also ‘a dark soundtrack for a crumbling world’.
On Cracked Dispatch the duo is completed by Oene van Geel’s trombone and viola and Maryana Golovchenko singing the Ukrainian traditional In The Sea There’s A Marble Stone. This song’s atmosphere pleasantly reminded me of Holger Czukay’s Boat Woman Song from 1969 (show hands if you remember that one).

Unlike their previous albums, A Looming Presence is a digital-only release; there are (currently) no plans for a physical release.

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