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Kleefstra/Bakker/Kleefstra (x3) * Tsjinlûd


2016 has been a relatively quiet year for the Kleefstra Brothers Jan and Romke, the nucleus of many different projects involving ambient improv music and Frisian poetry. Until the end of the year, at least, when several releases appeared within one month. Followed shortly after that with their latest CD: Dize.
The four  releases were not meant to be released so close to each other but due to unforseen release schedule changes they did.
So – you can now start binging…

Dage    Desimber   Dize


Two of the new releases are cassette (and digital download) releases with Anne Chris Bakkerknown from previous collaborations but also for his great solo albums Tussenlicht and Reminiscences. 

Dage, released on the Low-Point label, is the trio’s sixth collaborative release. It presents four tracks, including Widzjende Treast which some of you may recognise from last year’s Ambientblog Anniversary collection (it was this track that gave the anniversary mix its title).

Theirs is a familiar recipe by now: the track take their time to slowly build up from a quiet drone, accompanying Jan Kleefstra’s recitals in the Frisian language of the northern Dutch, a language only to be understood by the Frysians. Dreamlike, yet inevitably building up to a climax – an “ever-morphing musical backdrop, created by nothing more than the inventive use of bowed, looped and processed electric guitars”.

The two tracks on Desimber – another cassette release, this time released by Tombed Visions Records – have the same trance-inducing atmosphere. But with 36 and 26 minutes respectively, they take even more time to develop. The two tracks were recorded on a short tour in December 2015 (hence the name), and are a showcase of what a Kleefstra/Bakker/Kleefstra may sound like. ‘May’, because they are always spontaneous improvisations and thus will sound different every time.

The physical (cassette) edition is housed in a remarkable, though also impractical to store double-sized case. The Tombed Vision Records site only offers the cassette release (including the download of course), but if you’re not a cassette type person the Kleefstra Bros Bandcamp page also offers a download-only version.

The third title of this  Kleefstra/Bakker/Kleefstra trilogy is Dize (which translates to ‘Mist’), released as a CD by Midira Records.
Its content is simply summarized with the description “Frysian spoken words coated by a massive floating soundwall, made by two guitars.”

You probably don’t need more description than that, especially if you’re already familiar with their work or have listened to the two releases previously described.
There ís a small difference, however: the atmosphere is slightly darker than usual. Especially in the opening track De Holle As Asem and the album closer Moannegat – with its loud feedback climax.
They give this album a slightly more abrasive feel than usual. But apart from these moments, the album is as atmospheric (and misty) as ever.

Dize presents four tracks: two of them around the 8 minute mark, the other two even more unhurried with 12 and 14 minutes respectively.
This time, Jan Kleefstra‘s poems are printed on the CD-cover including the english translations.

Also on Spotify



Though the project unmistakably bears the characteristics of a Kleefstra-involved project, the history of the Tsjinlûd release is somewhat different, and has taken a long time to come to life.
It’s a CD presented in a hardcover book (or a book including a CD), featuring works by a collective of Frisian artists. The book contains poems, pictures, paintings and photographs in addition to the music and spoken poetry on the CD. But it’s not ‘just’ a lyric book: the poetry included in the book only partly overlaps that on the CD.

The Tsjinlûd collective project started in 2006, and has evolved into an impro- and soundcollective, combining soundscapes with poetry, spoken word and film. One of its resulting projects is the ongoing Klanklânskippen (‘Sound Landscapes’).

This self-released book includes poetry by Jan Kleefstra, Elmar Kuiper, Grytsje Schaaf, Remco Kuiper, photo’s by Romke Kleefstra, Anne-Chris Bakker, and pictures by Elmar Kuiper and Christiaan Kuitwaard. They all also contribute to the tracks on the CD, which were recorded early 2015. Compared to the KBK releases mentioned above, these tracks are somewhat more experimental, a bit more rough and unpolished.

The project is an uncompromising celebration of the Frisian culture: there are neither translations of the poems nor of the liner notes.
Those that don’t understand it, can only guess about the meaning of the words – though for those speaking Dutch it may help a bit to read the lyrics out loud to understand some fragments.

I can’t help but wonder if it is satisfying for the poets who wrote this to know that most listeners will not understand what they are talking about… I assume they prefer their words to be understood.
But on the other hand: nót understanding their words somehow adds to the magic of this music: its message still comes across.

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Joe Evans; Mark Harris; Max Würden

Joe Evans - Elemental States

The music of Joe Evans is never simply ‘improvised from the heart’. Album concepts are meticulously thought out, chord progressions can be explained with mathematical precision and involve ‘numbers, particular ratios, using them to determine rhythm, scales and tuning, with the aim of achieving a balance between dissonant and consonant sonorities.”
Yet the result is often sounding as if it is in harmony with complex natural processes – it is never the kind of avant-garde that has a lot of formal rules but is unbearable to listen to. This means the resulting music can be enjoyed on many levels.

Elemental States investigates “the analogy between the four classical elements (Earth, Water, Air Fire) and the four states of matter (Solid, Liquid, Gas, Plasma)’ – as well as their relation to the musical intervals based on the same prime number.
That may sound as a complex matter, and it probably is, but if you want you can simply forget about it and just enjoy the music created from environmental recordings paired with sound sources from household object made of glass or metal.

The first four elements use  ‘only acoustic sounds with no artificial reverberations’ – but there’s a fifth element: Ether, ‘having no equivalent as a state of matter in nature’ which is created synthetically.

Mark Harris - In the Forest The Animals Are Moving

Like Joe Evans, Mark Harris also works with strong system based elements and generative processes as a starting point for his immersive works. He has developed a number of custom software applications to work with in a live performance environment. And the result, too, has a very natural feel to it, ‘a sense of time and place, that ultimately generates a strong emotional response in the listener’.

In the Forest…. is divided into five segments that form one single, 46 minute piece.
“The whole piece develops slowly, however in a break with my previous compositions in “in the forest” includes more “dramatic” sections where I make use of feedback and overdriven distorted sounds and move the piece out of the ambient cannon..”
While working on the project, gradually other elements were added: live electronics, field recordings and some heavily processed prepared guitar.

One would expect a lot of environmental forest sounds, but they are surprisingly absent here (or hidden deep). Instead, there is a returning bell sound that one would not expect to hear in a forest. As Harris explains, the title comes from a recurring dream “of being alone in a forest at night and hearing a single repeated bell which I used orientate myself to find my way home and avoid the wild animals that I could hear moving around unseen in the forest… “

Max Wuerden - Retour

Retour is the second edition from a new Kompakt series curated by Wolfgang Voigt called Exponate: ‘to bring together new artists from diverse experimental backgrounds. To open up new musical spaces and to sound out the increasingly liquified confines between abstract ambient music and art music, between electronica and new music.’

The tracks are created from original 4-track tape-recordings from the 90’s, which were treated ‘as if they were only three weeks old’. 
And they dó sound remarkably fresh indeed: floating around somewhere between immersive ambient and more electronic soundscapes.

Considering the Exponate series statement it is not entirely clear where ambient music turns into art music, or where electronica ends and new music begins – but then again: this may have been the exact purpose from this series to begin with!
Also on Spotify


Books-Sound 3: Nostromo

The Book-Sound series is one of an ongoing side-project: soundscapes that are intended to be listened to while reading books.
Book-Sound 1 – Lok was written for a specific book: Die Lokomotive  by Thorsten Nesch, but also for use with ‘other dark tales’.
Book-Sound 2 – Transfer 
was created to play while reading ‘horror, mystery, fantasy and other dark tales’.
The third edition is named Nostromo (after the ever-inspiring spaceship from Alien) –  and so specifically intended for reading science fiction.

In the hour-long soundscape you can easily hear the distant thumping of the spaceship’s motor – there’s a lot going on sonically while at the same time the music has a strange ‘hibernative’ atmosphere.
Of course, it’s not obligatory to read books while listening – they are also perfect for immersive solitary listening sessions. 

Also on Spotify

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Good Weather for an Airstrike, Offthesky + Man Watching the Sky, Eugene Carchesio, Max Wuerden

In the Shortlist sections, I will mention some of the albums that I enjoyed listening to, but couldn’t find the time (or the right words) for a “full” review for. Still, I think they deserve your attention: use the links to find more info and hear previews.


Good Weather for an Airstrike – Lights
“Good Weather For An Airstrike (the name comes from a Sigur Rós piece) is an ambient/post-rock project by Tom Honey from Winchester, Hampshire UK. The idea of the project was to create a collection of relaxing sounds which would help Tom alleviate the issues caused by suffering from tinnitus, which causes a ringing sensation in the ear and can often result in difficulty sleeping. Combining processed guitars, dreamy strings, piano, synths, drums, lulling drones and subtle field recordings, Lights is full of wonderful soundscapes that mix ambient, electronic, post-rock and neo-classical sounds perfectly.”

Afar, Farewell

Offthesky & Man Watching the Stars – Afar, Farewell
Experimental violinist Brendan Paxton joins Jason ‘Offthesky’ Corder on these “five gorgeous tracks of slowly evolving melody on a soft bed of processed guitar, molten strings and Offthesky’s deep and quirky signatures”.

Circle Music

Eugene Carchesio – Circle Music
“The name Eugene Carchesio may not be an instantly familiar one – but for some two and a half decades, Carchesio has been a permanent fixture on the Australian music scene.
Circle Music is the first in a series of archival releases from Eugene’s huge electronic music catalog. A pulsing spiral of compositions, Circle Music taps the shoulder of minimal techno before scooting past into less familiar sonic territories. It’s a playful, bouncing collision of electronics, pulse and repetition”.


Max Wuerden – Or Lost
The Farfield label returns from hibernation exactly 10 years after Wuerden’s “Ortlos” album. The title is not just an anagram: together, the track titles spell out “Finding the Perfect Moment is it a Dream Fulfilled or Lost”.
“Wuerden works with many diverse samples – from atmospheric field recordings to unusual instruments (like a parasol stand) – to create moody, vast soundscapes and complex rhythms alike. He used a contact microphone to discover the world of sounds hidden in an old hard drive and reinterpret the well-known clang of a porcelain bowl. The result is darkly mysterious in one moment, only to become powerfully intensive the very next”.


Max Wuerden – Book Sounds 1: Lok & 2: Transfer
While checking out the Or Lost release, I stumbled upon two other fascinating releases by Max Wuerden, called Books Sounds. Both are a single soundscape, about one hour long, created for playing while reading a book.
Book Sounds 1: Lok” was specifically created for the novel Die Lokomotieve byThorsten Nesch (but it is claimed to also work with other dark tales).
The second Book Sound, calledTransfer“, was not written with a specific title in mind.“It works with horror, mystery, fantasy and other dark tales.”
In my experience, these deep and adventurous soundscapes work very well – even without any book.
Both titles are offered for an extremely low price (1€ minimum each).

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