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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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Kleefstra-Pruiksma-Kleefsta – Deislieper


Deislieperis the third release in what I like to call the Kleefstra Wire Trilogy“.
In fact, there’s no real ‘trilogy’, but three separate albums that were presented by three independent labels on one single advertising page in Wire Magazine: “Wurdskrieme(on Experimedia). Tongerswel”  (on Home Normal), and now Deislieper(on Hibernate).

“Deislieper”, by the way, is a Frisian name for the nightjar and literally it means ‘day sleeper’

Rooted firmly in the improv scene, core members Jan (poetry) and Romke (guitar, effects) Kleefstra never work alone.
With Piiiptsjilling, most of the contributors were Dutch fellow musicians (like Rutger ‘Machinefabriek’ Zuydervelt, Mariska Baars, Chris Bakker), but soon they also started playing with an international cast of musicians like Peter Broderick, Nils Frahm, Greg Haines (on the Seeljocht project).
Tongerswel presented their work together with saxophonist Gareth Davis, and now Deisleeper features the incredible percussion music by Sytze Pruiksma.

Packed in a strikingly beautiful white digipack (designed by Antonymes, based on photography by Ruurd-Jelle van der Ley), this albums contrasts quite heavily with the dark layout of Tongerswel. In another way, however, they fit together perfectly. 

While the basic musical ingredients are not very different from what you might expect after the previous releases (slow guitar soundscapes and a dreamy vocal performance of the, mostly rather dark, Frisian poetry), the album definitely gets its own identity from Sytze Pruiksma’s percussion.

To get an idea of his percussion craftsmanship, you may watch this session recording from last summer’s Into the Great Wide Open festival (also featuring the Kleefstra’s and Peter Broderick). (I know I’ve published this link before, but the session is too beautiful not to be seen!)

2012 Will probably bring numerous new projects involving Jan and Romke Kleefstra.
But for now, 2011 has been an incredibly productive year for Jan and Romke Kleefstra.

I don’t know if any award for Frisian Culture Export Products exists, but if it does, these guys definitely should be nominated!

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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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Kyle Bobby Dunn; Will Long; Kleefstra+Kleefstra+Davis; Kalte; Bgudna

In this “shortlist” section, 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, they deserve your attention: use the links to find more info and hear previews.

Ways of Meaning

Kyle Bobby Dunn – Ways of Meaning
“Kyle Bobby Dunns new full-length album is a treatise on the resonance of memory; an attempt to harness the finality of meaning as a shared experience.
Some moments recall church and choral music, others are anthemic in their own quiet way, and sadness finds warm overtones to help quell its cold nature. Spatial qualities are examined thoroughly; clarity is reached when viewing one’s surroundings. The environment comes into focus and a reverie encapsulates the listener.”

When You Fall Out of Love

Will Long – When You Fall Out of Love with Me
The title in itself invokes the sad romantic mood for which this 18 minute track is the perfect soundtrack. Celer-style, in case you need any more recommendation.


Gareth Davis, Jan & Romke Kleefstra – Sieleslyk
“Jan and Romke Kleefstra are brothers, currently based in The Netherlands who have previously collaborated with Machinefabriek and Peter Broderick amongst many others. On Sieleslyk they are joined by British artist Gareth Davis (bass and contrabass clarinet) to make some ominous dynamic soundscapes using guitar, clarinet and spoken word.The spoken words of Jan Kleefstra are in Frisian, a minority language spoken in the north of The Netherlands.”
The physical edition is part of the Rural Colours Subscription Set, but non-subscribers can download the digital version for free! (!)  


Kalte – Fissures
“At over six thousand metres below sea level, the Hadopelagic Zone is the deepest layer of the ocean, an area where water pressure is over a hundred times stronger than on the surface and where light cannot penetrate. For their latest album “Fissures”, Kalte explore the darkness that permeates this inhospitable space, music inspired by massive pressures and arctic depths, heavy sounds from unknown sources, ominous and dark tones never heard outside of this watery abyss.”
produces eerie and expansive soundscapes, created almost entirely from natural sources that have been digitally altered and re-assembled. The result is a dark and atmospheric combination of organic and electronic elements.

Bgudna - Other Plans

Bgudna – Other Plans for Field Experience
Björgvin Guðnason (Iceland), the man behind BGUDNA, has crafted a dreamy and otherworldly EP, a
listening experience both warm and wonderful, both dark and searching.”
Free download from the “en stillhet som döden” (“a stillness like death”) netlabel .

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