Ambientblog is very proud to present this new and until now unreleased Machinefabriek track called Transform II as an exclusive (and FREE) download.This 17:05 piece is created using samples from Michel Banabila‘s track Transform (from his latest album Everywhere Else Is Just Right Here, more info below).
Michel Banabila and Rutger ‘Machinefabriek’ Zuydervelt have collaborated for a long time now. They released result of their fruitful cooperation on four albums: Banabila & Machinefabriek(2012), Travelog(2013), Error Log(2015) and Macrocosms(2016). (Rumours are a new release may be in the making but no details about that are available yet).
The two clearly share an artistic musical vision, and their different approach and perspective merge very well and add an extra adventurous layer to the result.
Transform IIis Machinefabriek‘s vision on the original (much shorter) Michel Banabila track. Rutger Zuydervelt takes the original and almost tearing it apart, then rearranging the details in a different way. The result clearly be recognised as a Machinefabriek work: Banabila hesitates to call it a ‘remix’ because it must be seen as a complete new work. But it also remains true and respectful to its Banabila roots.
It’s a deep dive into electronic abstraction, but near the end of the track Machinefabriek introduces a ‘signature Banabila sound ‘: the melodica. It makes you feel as if you’re coming up for air again after a fascinating exploration of an underwater world.
Editing, processing and additional sounds by Rutger Zuydervelt, September 2018 Source material by Michel Banabila
Michel Banabilahas released music since 1983 (that’s 35 years now, mind you!) and if you delve into his back catalogue you’ll discover an interesting development. Inspired by the explorations from Brian Eno/David Byrne, broadening his musical visions across many genres and borders, he created experimental music, music for theatre, dance and films, world music and sometimes music that could be classified as ‘new age’. Experimental but also accessible, balancing serious art with zany humor, comprehensible yet unorthodox. His strength – a diverse output across many genres – in fact became also a weakness in terms of marketing: unable to pinpoint him to their own preferred genre, ‘serious’ music lovers often ignored his musical genius. In my opinion Banabila never really got the recognition he deserved to get, especially in his ‘early years’.
But over time, and due to his untiring perseverance, that has changed.
Banabila’s music has changed too. His output became more experimental. His music slowly evolved (or dissolved – after al that’s just a matter of perspective) into ever more abstract electronics.
In recent years, his debut album Marilli was re-released in 2017 on Seance Centre, other early works were compiled on Bureau Bin 2016, and Voiznoiz recently saw a beautiful rerelease on Steamin’ Soundworks. At first, this renewed interest in his early material confused Banabila: this was music from the past, this is not what he stands for now, musically.
But possibly the renewed interest in his musical past also triggered something. On Everywhere Else Is Just Right HereBanabila revisits (and perhaps even re-animates) his own musical past, and connects it to his current musical vision. There are ‘abstract’ tracks, and these are arguably the ones that are mostly connected to his recent output. But there are also tracks that resemble his early work: rhythmic, filled with surprising (often found environmental) sounds, all presented in a wide-open production. Music with a very strong ‘theatrical’ quality.
The two closing tracks are not new but remasters from Des Traces Retrouvées II and III (1985/1987). They somehow complete the circle.
Banabila reinventing himself feels like coming home. But I guess we can safely assume that he won’t be staying ‘home’ too long: after all ‘change is the only constant’.
Everywhere Else Is Just Right Hereis a digital-only release.
I ‘highlighted’ the Transform track below because it’s interesting to compare it to the Machinefabriek rework. But it may not be the most representative track from the album, so I strongly recommend to check out the rest too.
When you’re familiar with the surprising Dead Neanderthals release Life from april this year, ánd know the two artists have always been closely related, this collaboration of Rutger ‘Machinefabriek‘ Zuydervelt and René Aquarius will hardly surprise you. The duo does not spend much words explaining this album: they just refer to it as their ‘third collaboration in 2018’ (after The Red Soul and Smelter).
Glass Palace feels like a logical step after Life: a 34 minute drone piece that hardly seems to change on a first listen but where a lot of things are going on actually.
It feels as a recording of processes inside a cyborg-like life form that is slowly retreating from activity.
Or like watching a fascinating organic activity through a microscope at first, but gradually increasing the viewing distance.
Or earthly observations starting from a clear viewpoint but then retreating, like an astronaut watching Earthly struggles, putting all irrelevant global worries into a cosmic perspective.
With increasing distance, details become unimportant.
Oh well, just forget these desperate descriptions. While I’m writing this I realise that it is impossible to describe a sound like this with words.
I understand now why Zuydervelt and Aquarius did not even try to describe the sound of their Glass Palace: don’t over think it, just go with the experience.
I had never heard about the Siberian trio Presidiomodelo until this release, and was surprised to find out that they released a split cassette release with Machinefabriek earlier this year on Tandem Tapes. The Inner Empire is also released on tape, with a 15 minute part of the soundscape on each side. Of course there’s a digital download option, too.
With related concepts like the Shaman (‘priest of the devil’), permafrost, Soviet labour camps and other worlds (to which the Shaman has access) the context of this soundscape is rather dark. “Misty atmospheres infused with a murky, industrial aesthetic – a meditation on themes of self confinement and interior exile.”
“Rumbling synths oscillate amongst delicate beds of chimes whilst ghostly chants and guttural tones vibrate around the sound of handmade instruments and hypnotic drums.”
The original music for this set was composed for theatre, so the different sections merge into each other like changing scenes. A soundscape full of suspense and inescapability, like a compelling horror movie.
Perhaps, it’s a bit weird to talk about an album with a title like this, which was indeed released in August last year, in the middle of the winter season. But however, the music is a pleasure to listen to all year round, and especially in the cold of winter we long for the long and warm days of summer.
Frans de Waard is a Dutch pioneer who has been active in all kinds of experimental electronic music since 1984. Not only as a musician, but also as a label owner and reviewer for Vital Weekly, covering about every thinkable aspect of experimental music.
Hot August Night, released on Chihei Hatakeyama’s White Paddy Mountain label, was created in a sad period when his mother was terminally ill. It is basically an improvisation (or ‘tinkering’) on an iPad piano app, later transformed to this 45 minute piece of lo-fi ambient. “It is not a work of sadness for me, but a celebration of both my wonderful parents and their support for my music over the years, even though they not always understood what it was about.”
The piece feels generative in nature, it could have been one of Brian Eno’s compositions, albeit that Frans de Waard‘s choices of sounds are less ’round’ than Eno’s, with considerable more distortion by design. Hot August Night is ambient in the classic definition of ‘music that is as ignorable as it is interesting’. It is interesting to listen to the different elements slowly shifting in and out of focus, subtly changing the sound image while retaining the peaceful mood.
I don’t know if it’s the title or my association with summer, but there’s one sound element that reminds me of the cowbells worn by cattle in the Alp fields of Austria and Switzerland.
So if anyone ever thought that Ambient music ‘needs more cowbell‘ – try this one!
Zeno van den Broek is a Dutch composer/multi-media artist that recently moved to Copenhagen. He “utilizes immaterial and temporal means such as sound, acoustics and projections to create site
and concept specific works. He has developed a distinctive language based on pure sound sources, often sine waves and noise, in relation to minimal visual aesthetics based on lines and grids. With these means he creates site-specific patterns of interference, which fully express the characteristics of the space.”
Paranon is released by the Moving Furniture Records label, but it would’ve fitted perfectly on the Raster-Noton label too, for its almost academical, analytical conceptual approach. “Paranon consists of two compositions based on parameter canons of sine wave generators. […] The custom programmed sine wave generators Zeno van den Broek uses on Paranon make it possible to generate interference, shift phases and alternate frequencies with great precision.”
This sounds like there’s a pretty complicated algorithm behind the two twenty-minute Canons of Paranon. But it is not a complicated work to listen to (if you’re familiar with minimalist drone music, that is. Though ‘minimal’ may be a badly chosen word for this work).
The deep drones fill the atmosphere and you can sense the interplay of the sound waves interfering with each other – which will sound different depending on the reflections of the environment it is played in. In a way, listening on headphones is the ‘purest’ way to listen to these works, and they sound absorbing this way. But then you’re eliminating the characteristics of the space it is played in, and thus you bypass one of the key elements that Zeno van den Broek investigates: space, time and physics.
Retroactions by Kassell Jaeger is the very first release on Moving Furniture‘s sublabel Eliane Tapes. The label is dedicated to (and inspired by) the work of Éliane Radigue, a true pioneer in the field of minimalism and drone music. If you’re familiar with her work, you’ll know what to expect from this newborn label: fascinating explorations in extreme minimalism
Kassell Jaeger presents four ‘studies’, each around 20 minutes, experimenting with different feedback setups, using 6 microphones and 10 speakers. There are two pieces (Controlled Aerial Feedbacks and Non-controlled Aerial Feedbacks), each with their own Processed version. No information is provided about the way the feedback signal is controlled.
The result is 80 minutes of deep drones perfect for ‘Deep Listening”. Like good drones should, these sounds seem to make a connection between the listener and the unknown earthly (perhaps even cosmic) frequencies. Immersive and timeless.
In line with the media used in the 60’s and 70’s, Eliane Tapes editions will be released on (limited edition of 100) cassettes. But for playback I recommend the hi-res digital files because they don’t have the characteristic hiss and distortion that cassette tapes inevitably have.
As Orphax, Sietse van Erve is constantly looking for the perfect drone. He is a huge fan of the work of Éliane Radigue (read above about his new label Eliane Tapes), which resounds in his work. With his Dream Sequence series (currently four editions) he presents ‘experimental ambient/drone pieces with a dreamy touch.’
For this release, the Dream Sequences material was reworked and ‘reframed’ by Haarvöl, Jos Smolders and Rutger ‘Machinefabriek’ Zuydervelt. It is interesting to hear what other artists can do with sound material as basic as a drone. Of course, the artists invited are no strangers to the genre and each have an impressive body of work themselves. They’re all soul mates in this musical respect. The result 60 minutes of experimental electronic drone music in three tracks that fit together as a hand in a glove.
Haarvöl includes an explanation of their intention with this piece: ‘We wanted to make a theme in which the dream idea would somehow accommodate our aesthetics.’ This includes field recordings from a nanotechnology laboratory as well as a modified bagpipe (!). (Haarvöl are Portuguese; the bagpipe is a popular instrument in the northern region of Miranda do Douro). “Our dream is embodied in a naturally surreal but also mechanical sequence; in dystopia seeking return to its original utopian condition at any moment: to the dream.”
Jos Smolders and Machinefabriek did not include any notes about their rework, because they wanted to let the music speak for itself. However, Smolders’ intention is given in the title: “Functional Neuratanomy Of Human Rapid Eye Movement Sleep And Dreaming.” I guess this marks the start of yet another great series.
I could easily fill all of this blog with Machinefabriek/Rutger Zuyderveltreleases. Blink twice and the release pages (solo/collaborations) will probably be updated with a new title. And, contrary to what you might expect with such prolific output, each release promises different surprises and thus deserves attention.
Time for a roundup of some recent releases:
Aaron Martin (cello, banjo, organ, ukulele, vocals) and Machinefabriek(electronics, processing, editing) have worked together before (on Cello Drowning, 2007). The tracks for Seeker were originally conceived for a dance piece by choreographer Iván Pérezcalled Hide and Seek.
The CD album version presents the (reworked and refined versions of) the original sketches that were created in preparation for this choreography. A remarkable combination of sounds covering a wide spectre of emotions – from gritty and noisy electronics to smooth vocal arrangements and organic folky strings… and many things in-between.
Included with the CD-version (and with the digital edition, of course) is a download of a 53 minute continuous remix of these pieces. This is what became the final score for the choreography.
This continuous mix is a perfect example of the added value of a good mix: take the original tracks (which are good enough to be played on their own, make no mistake about that), put them in a different order and they will tell a completely different story. Context is everything. You’ll recognise the tracks, but still it feels as if the mix is a completely different album from the version with the separate tracks.
Seekerhas waited to be released for more than two years. It was intended to be released on a different label but it was postponed for many reasons. Finally, Dronarivm came to the rescue… and we definitely should thank them for doing so.
The collaboration with choreographer Iván Pérez became a fruitful one: after Hide and Seek more Machinefabriekscores would follow. Becoming is the fourth product of their fruitful collaboration (following Attention The Doors Are Closing and Exhausting Space).
What was new for this particular production was that the score was produced live instead of using pre-recorded material. During performance, the dancers and the musician (Rutger Zuydervelt) have a real-time dialogue and so each performance is different.
“The choreography and music were created simultaneously, rehearsing together, and developing a movement and sound ‘vocabulary’ for the piece. The end result is structured, but still leaves a lot of room for improvisation in order to keep a natural flow. “
The CD release of Becomingis a ‘studio version’: a 40-minute piece edited from sounds recorded during the rehearsals. Again, Rutger Zuyderveltguides the listener through a landscape of contrasting extremes: from distorted noise that sets the listener in full alert mode, to dreamy drones and angelic choirs performed by Mariska Baars (soccer Committee/Piiptsjilling). To illustrate the way each performance can vary, the CD/digital edition includes a 46 minute live version recorded at the première performance of Becoming in Bassano del Grappa, Italy.
It is worth noting that this majestic sound is created using a relative ‘lo-fi’ setup of tools: pocket piano, pre-recorded cassettes, coil pick-up mic, contact mic, slinky spring, radio, dictaphone, tuning fork, scourer, micro amp, looper pedals, effects pedals.
Watching Machinefabriekperform live is nothing like the usual ‘laptop artist’ – it is watching a true sound alchemist at work.
Exactly one year after the Volume 1 release of the Astroneer game soundtrack a follow-up is released, simultaneously with a major game update. In the game, the music plays continuously and reacts interactively to the player’s decisions.
But for the CD/Download-release the eighteen tracks are presented as separate compositions. They are an addition to the 26 tracks of Volume 1, so that’s quite an impressive soundtrack altogether!
Astroneershows Machinefabriekat his most playful. Like on Volume 1, the synths have a retro sound that matches the games physics. Relatively short tracks, most of them quite light-hearted (except of course when danger or caves are involved).
Compare this release with the previous two and the one below, and you’ll probably find it hard to believe that these albums were created by one and the same person!
What it seems to be(Dutch: Wat het lijkt te zijn) is a collaborative project for an installation by Sarah Payton:a temporary artwork near the Buiksloterweg in Amsterdam.
It is a viewer made of concrete and rusting steel. When you look into the viewer you do not see the surroundings but watch a video with images of the city. You won’t find it there anymore: the installation has moved to different locations near the shores of the IJ until the end of october, and its current location is unknown. But we still have the soundtrack, thanks to the Dauw label.
With a beautiful and relatively soft-focused Machinefabriek‘s soundtrack, Sarah Payton tells stories “about things, such as a journey to another country, the properties of water, and the Wizard of Oz. Of potatoes, immigrants and homeless men that she encounters in the city. Threaded throughout is the search for a story in which everyone in the city could feel at home.”
For some reason I personally have concentration issues with spoken word performances – the same reason why I cannot listen to an audiobook: after a few minutes I hear the voice but not the meaning. I hear but I don’t understand – the voice has become an instrument and could’ve very well been a trumpet or any other solo instrument. Still, Saray Payton has a nice voice, and her observations are definitely worth concentrated listening.
The cassette release (or digital download) contains the original installation version (spoken) as well as the instrumental version on the B-Side. It is another example of Rutger Zuydervelt‘s versatility: no abrasive noise here but a soft, gentle, piece. Music that fits Sarah Payton’s contemplative observations about the world around her like a glove.
The dutch title isn’t easily translated. Reflection comes close but doesn’t quite cover it.
But the cover image reveals what this album is about: two artists interacting on each others work, bouncing the ball back to each other and creating new pieces along the process.
The starting point for this album was their mutual respect. To call it a collaboration album would not be entirely true: two (of the three) tracks on this album are a remixes of each other’s music. Orphax(Sietse van Erve, Amsterdam) remixed Machinefabriek‘s Stofstukinto Reflectie.
Spiegeling, on the other hand, is Machinefabriek‘s remix of Orphax’ De Eerste Dag. Completing this album is the title track Weerkaatsing, which is a completely new piece. Not a remix, but a ‘real’ collaborative work.
Drone-based electronics, but not the static kind of drones… there’s a lot happening in these 43 minutes. The original sound is enriched with many tweaks and twitches, adding details that weren’t there in the first place (such as the string section in Spiegeling).
Ever-changing – yet with a consistent overall atmosphere… Weerkaatsingis one of those collaboration projects where the whole is absolutely a lot more than the sum of its parts.
1 + 1 = 3.
Stijn Hüwelsis a Belgian musician that is not only known for his own minimalist music (created using processed guitar, loops and field recordings), but also as curator of the famous Slaapwel Records label –promoters of Sleep Music with a critically acclaimed discography of handmade CD(r)-releases.
Danny Clay(from San Francisco), on the other hand, describes himself as a Composer/General Noise Maker who’s projects “often incorporate musical games, open forms, found objects, archival media, toy instruments, classrooms of elementary schoolers, graphic notation, digital errata, cross-disciplinary research, and the everything-in-between”.
So there you are: merge Stijn’s quiet and introspective guitar and voice with Danny’s interacting (but also introspective) turntables, sine waves and celesta, and you’re in for a sonic treat.
A very calming and undisturbed treat, for most parts.
The slow-paced (14 minute) 3.25.2016 (I), for example, has a background loop that could come from a William Basinski album (but without the degradation), and is covered in warm guitar layers and gentle glockenspiel-like bell sounds.
An Unintended Spaceis the duo’s first collaborative project, on which they worked for a year. The tracks are titled by the dates they were considered finished (I assume): between february 2016 and march 2017.
Eight ‘smoke columns’ created by Federico Mosconi from Verona, Italy: “undefined and changing soundscapes as the figures drawn by smoke”.
The opening track Notturno introduces sounds of distant thunder, while the album merges field recordings with Mosconi‘s guitar playing and live recordings into a beautiful dreamy set of lush ambient soundscapes.
Creating ambient music is not the only thing Federico Mosconi does: he graduated in guitar and multimedia composition at the Conservatory of Verona and has played solo as well as in orchestras, chamber ensembles and the electroacoustic improvisation sextet Cardew Ensemble. Colonne Di Fumois his second full album, following Acquatinta from 2014.
For his score for ArrivalJóhann Jóhannssontakes a surprising step away from the neo-classical composition such as recently displayed on his Orphéealbum, venturing into more ominous abstract territory matching the movie’s subject.
The difficulty of translating alien communication is reflected in the music by the singers using no text, only vowels. The tension can be felt in every detail of every track.
For his score, Jóhannsson was able to work with some well-respected artists like the Theatre of Voices (conducted by Paul Hillier), Hildur Gudnadóttir and Robert Aiki Audrey Lowe (aka Lichens).
I haven’t seen the movie (yet), and based on the description the story will probably be incomparable to that of 2013’s Under The Skin, but there are many moments in the soundtrack that I find the music is equally intense and has the same chilling effect Mica Levi’s score had. Mysterious, Eerie, Ominous… After hearing the soundtrack, you’ll probably want to go to see the movie too.
But even without having seen the movie, this is a soundtrack that is pushing the boundaries of movie score traditions.
Considering the strength of this soundtrack, it seems a weird choice to feature a Max Richter composition (In the Nature of Daylight)as the movie’s signature piece. Not because it’s not a beautiful piece, but it feels a bit secondhand after originally appearing on The Blue Notebooks (2004) and having been used in at least four other movies (such as Shutter Island, 2010).
Definitely a very, very bad decision, because the inclusion of the Max Richter track in the score resulted in the soundtrack’s disqualification for an Oscar nomination, according to the Academy Awards’ guidelines.
The Richter track is not included in the soundtrack album, which -deservedly- focuses on Jóhannsson‘s score.
But in the end it doesn’t really matter: even without the Oscar nomination, this is simple one of the best soundtracks of 2016 (and a large part of 2017) you’ll find!
With the video game becoming a big industry, the attention that goes into their soundtracks has grown too. Soundtracks are no longer scored strictly for movies. The sound design for interactive video-games has become as important as its graphics design.
Composing for an interactive video game has some extra challenges, since the story isn’t linear in most cases: there are different routes a player can take, but the continuity must not be broken.
Samorost 3is a game created by Amanita Design, creators of the award-winning Machinarium. I’m not a gamer myself, so I cannot tell you about the ins and outs of the gameplay (other websites can do that), but from the short game preview (below) one can tell that Amanita has gone through great lengths to create a beautifully detailed fantasy world:
The same can be said about the soundtrack, composed by Tomáš Dvořák (aka Floex) – clarinettist, composer, producer and multimedia artist from Prague (Czech Republic). He claims to have spent at least two-and-a-half years on this project, creating the sound design, sounds and expression of the characters, the environment as well as the musical dramaturgy.
And this shows in the quality as well as the quantity: with 23 tracks and 77 minutes the album fills up and entire CD (or double LP).
“Floex’s favourite and leading instrument – the clarinet – appears, as does the flitting between the genres – experimental levels that easily sail into the ambient or the downtempo.”
The music is as diverse as the seven different planets the story takes place on; it’s an engaging collection to listen to even without having played the game. It draws from many sources and manages to be refreshingly original and to avoid the cliché’s of contemporary modern classical soundtrack composing.
The objective of Samorost 3 may be largely the same as that of System Era’s Astroneer: both games are about travelling to unknown planets and discover alien worlds.
But the design choices are fundamentally different, as can be seen from both introduction previews.
Whichever style you prefer is simply a matter of taste. You can even like both of course, each for his own quality.
The soundtrack of these games are perfectly aligned with these design choices.
(Music Track: Gameplay 5)
Astroneeris Rutger Zuydervelt‘s first game soundtrack and will probably come as a surprise for those following his earlier work. Using his own name instead of his Machinefabriekalias often (but not always) indicates a difference in music, too: somewhat less abstract, more ‘formally composed’ new music. The closing track, Starting Scene, is an exception to this since it is an adaption of the Machinefabriek track Wold. Also, the fact that this is a collection of short, pointy compositions is one of the surprises of this 26-track album (16 on CD, 10 extra tracks with the additional download because they were finished later).
In line with the game graphics, Rutger chose to use a relatively basic, synth sound palette for his compositions. It’s not 8-bit music – that would have been a few steps too far in relation to the visual design – but the overall sound is definitely ‘retro’. No full-scale string ensembles here, no wide-screen symphonic cinematics, but a sound design firmly supporting the game physics.
The collection features the game’s main themes as well as a lot of atmospheric soundscapes with titles like Danger, Exploration, Gathering indicating their context.
Rutger ‘Machinefabriek‘ Zuydervelt, one of the most prolific artists in the world of experimental electronics, never fails to amaze with every new direction.
“And now for something completely different…” must be his basic life motto.
I don’t think that Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie needs any further introduction, but for those new to his name: he is one of the driving forces behind The Stars of the Lid and A Winged Victory Of The Sullen – one of the founding fathers of ‘orchestral ambient’.
The music of the Stars of the Lid and – even more- AWVftS has always been extremely cinematic, so it was only a matter of time before there would be an ‘official’ soundtrack releases based on their way of composing.
Mike Plunkett’s Salerotells the story of a young ‘salt gatherer’ in Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat, who becomes ‘the last link between the old world and the new’. For that description alone, the music of Adam Wiltzie is a perfect choice: his music also is a link between the old world and the new.
Stars of the Lid always presented the most abstract minimalist version of the acoustic ambient music. Compared to their work A Winged Victory For The Sullen always was more accessible. Saleroeven takes this a step further and will feel familiar to those familiar with the works of Max Richter, Johann Johannsson and the likes.
But the musical ingredients that make up for the specific ‘Adam Wiltzie sound’ are easily recognisable: the string ensemble, the guitar, the electronic dub background effects.
In 2010, Wiltzie’s Stars of the Lid partner Brian McBride scored a (beautiful) soundtrack for the Effective Disconnectdocumentary, but if my memory serves me correctly, Salerois the first ‘full’ soundtrack scored by Adam Wiltzie (please correct me if I’m wrong).
It certainly won’t be the last: apart from A Winged Victory For The Sullen’s soundtrack for Iris, the beginning of 2017 will also premiere Alexandre Moors’ ‘The Yellow Birds’ , with another score by AdamWiltzie.
A WINGED VICTORY FOR THE SULLEN – IRIS release date: jan 13, 2017
While Salero is Adam Wiltzie’s solo score, the soundtrack for Irisis scored by A Winged Victory For The Sullen which means it is written by Adam Wiltzie and Dustin O’Halloran. When director Jalil Lespert heardthe music of AWVftS, he immediately knew that that was the music he wanted for his new film. And so, Wiltzie and O’Halloran got the opportunity to “explore more analogue electronic experiments as well as working with a large string ensemble (a 40-piece string ensemble), to create something that felt very modern and still cinematic”.
The first sessions for this recordings were some modular synth sessions recorded in Berlin. The combination of these modular sounds with a full scale string ensemble is a perfect match for a “script with tension, sexuality and darkness”.
If you’re familiar with their previous recordings you will hear the AWVftS sound trademarks all through the score. Their music has always been more accessible than the extreme minimalism of Stars of the Lid.
But even compared to their own previous albums (AWVftSand Atomos), Iristakes this a few steps further. Which brings this soundtrack somewhat closer to the many other modern classical soundtracks that are currently released.
The physical release of the album presents a set of 41 minutes (selected from the original 60 minute soundtrack); the digital download has some interesting extra bonus tracks: Part 2 and 3 of Adam Wiltzie’s The Endless Battle of the Maudlin Ballade (originally featured on the Travels in Constants series #24),and four tracks by Petite Noir, dOP, DJ Pone and The Shoes feat Thomas Azier that are featured in the film.
From Belgium comes Bernard Zwijzen‘s Sonmi451, named after one of the main characters in David Mitchell’s novel “Cloud Atlas“.
Ever since 2005 Sonmi451produced a steady stream of albums (some of which you may already know from this blog). Aliceis his 11th full album, this time self-released and available from Bandcamp only.
With a title like this the association is obvious and that is confirmed by titles like I Didn’t Know That Cats Could Grin or How Queer Is Everyting Today. Step into the wondrous world of Lewis Carrol’s Alice In Wonderlandto enjoy a beautiful and colourful world where not everything is what it seems.
The tones are soft and warm, the music is adventurous yet without threats. A place you will want to dwell in, especially with the Japanese ‘Alice’ (soft whispered fragments from works of Haruki Murakami) guiding you through the enigmatic and colourful landscape to make sure you don’t accidentally step on something delicate and vulnerable.
Their fourth collaborative album shows Michel Banabilaand Machinefabriekin a playful mood, somewhat less abstract than on their previous album Error Log. Macrocosmsradiates the joy of swapping sound files and surprising each other in turn with an unexpected twist of the material: field recordings from the Biala Woda nature reserve in Poland, musique concrête, noise, ambient, ‘fourth world’ samples, ‘Holger Czukay style’ sped up guitars, and whatnot…
“The overall theme deals with the macro and micro – how incredibly tiny and insiginificant we become when zooming out, and how wondrous small worlds can be found within ours when zooming in.”
Michel and Rutger are a perfect pair: two giants of Dutch experimental music, combining the best of many worlds. Abstract experimentalism, cinematic romanticism, impressionistic environmentalism… it’s all in the details that merge into a recognisable trademark style and manages to surprise with every new release.
MACHINEFABRIEK with ANNE BAKKER and EDITH KARKOSCHKA – CRUMBLE
The first few minutes of soft strings and electronic are a misleading introduction. After three minutes the music suddenly turns into a frightening bombardment of noise particles that lasts for more than 10 minutes. Only if you brace yourself you will hear the details within that sonic storm.
At the end of that sequence – almost unheard from the back of the noise wall – a new theme is introduced. The storm dies down, and is followed by a calm section featuring spoken words and poetry by Edita Karkoscha. The piece ends with an even calmer part where violinist Anne Bakkertakes the lead.
Rutger ‘Machinefabriek‘ Zuydervelt has worked with Anne Bakkerbefore (memorable releases like Deiningand Halfslaap), but Crumbleis quite different in nature and concept.
This is not an ‘easy’ piece to listen to; it requires full attention before it releases its rewarding secrets.
I have been wondering what Machinefabriek was actually trying to achieve here, with the dramatic turns and the enormous contradictions within one single piece.
I thought of the (unintentional) conceptual resemblance with Irreversible, Gaspar Noé‘s unforgettable movie that starts with a shocking climax and from there tells its story in backwards, reverse-chronological, order.
The movie’s tagline: “Time destroys everything” – ultimately, everything will start to crumble.
Roel Funcken (core member of Funckarmaand prolific Dutch musician, producer and DJ) has teamed up with Cor Bolten (member of the legendary Dutch art-wave band Mecano) to form Legiac. This their third release: preceded by Mings Feaner (2007) and The Faex Has Decimated (2015, parts of which were recently remixed on this album). The Voynich Manuscripthas found a home on the Dronarivmlabel – a quality indication in itself.
Legiac‘s soundscapes are described as ‘mildly glitch-infused, modular explored sounds, weaving in ambient textures, field recordings and vast soundscapes.’ The title(s) are taken from a 15th century hand-written and illustrated codex – a mysterious text that raises a lot of unanswered questions about its content. You’ll have to use your imagination to link the music to tis 15th century mystery, because it’s not exactly mediaeval music you’re listening to. But they are mysterious in their own way. The Voynich Manuscriptcombines 21st century soundscapes with subtle retro analogue sequencer sounds, merging the skills and experience of two prolific and experienced experimental artists.
A few days ago, Wouter van Veldhoven mentioned his praise for Soccer Committee‘s albumsC (2007). ‘It’s almost ten years old now’, he wrote, ‘It is also probably the best minimal album ever made, regardless of subgenre. The album would likely be labeled minimal folk/songwritery music, but please give it a good listen, because this is way way more than just songs.’
I remember seeing (and hearing) Mariska Baars (Soccer Committee) for the very first time when she played support for a Stars of the Lid show in Utrecht in 2007, and I remember feeling the same way: these are not ‘just songs’ – there’s something more to them, something that is hard to grasp and explain.
Around that time (december 2007), I made a mix from Soccer Committee‘s music paired to that of Machinefabriek. This mix was never published here before, because it was made for the NPS-Folio radio show broadcast.
The Folio shows are archived in this Mixcloud profile, but I don’t usually mention them here. Time to make an exception to that rule: Wouter van Veldhoven’s post made me decide it was time to dust off the 2007 mix and publish it again. Because it’s still as powerful now as it was back then, almost 10 years ago.
Connecting Soccer Committee‘s acoustic, minimalist and pure songs to Machinefabriek‘s experimental electronics may seem like a strange conjunction of opposites, but it works very well (at least, for me it does): it seems to bring out a somewhat hidden, ‘peaceful and true’ emotional layer to their music.
And it’s not such a strange combination as it seems to be: Mariska and Rutger have been working and performing together for many years in projects like Piiptsjilling and various other combinations.
A lot has happened since 2007. Machinefabriek‘s musical career (and his discography) has exploded to worldwide acclaim, and while Mariska Baars is still incidentally performing music in various projects, Soccer Committee is not active anymore: she now expresses herself through her paintings mainly.
LOOPED EXODUS – SOULS HAVE MACHINES The third self-released full album (not counting the initial two EP’s) from Looped Exodus (Geerard Labeur, from Amsterdam).
The music for this album was inspired by summer visits to sea and dunes, and reflects ‘the landscape, some theory and the act of escaping the hyper-reality…’. Escaping the hyper-reality can be a deeply religious thing it seems; there are more than one references to religion in the titles: Psalm 88 <in Morsecode>, Monastic Piracy, Psalm 62, Techno for Sacred Spaces… (and in the hidden track Religion in the Age of Digital Reproduction, created with ‘digitally reproduced’ fragments of prayers).
There are many surprises embedded in the drone-based electronics: the combination with the operatic vocals (from a Bach piece) in Mein Hz works out very well, as does the morse-code text in Psalm 88 (I am not capable to check the code but I suppose it’s correct morse), the environmental recordings, the string loops, the FM radio signals, the slowed down jazz rhythm sample…
All these details add up to more than the sum of its parts…which is what makes this album sound so very inspired – and inspiring.
MICHEL BANABILA – FEEDBACK + MODULAR + RADIOWAVES III FMR IIIis the third and final (?) release in Michel Banabila‘s series of experiments in combining the three sound sources from the title. It opens in quite a radical way with a loud synthetic gong that immediately draws full attention, followed by a minimal machinelike noise – an industrial meditation. Modular synths are very fashionable, but too often the musical results only interesting for the nerdy buttonfreaks using them – there’s too much of ‘what does thís button do??’. But not in Banabila‘shands.
By using clever combinations of different sources, and by careful manipulation, his compositions – even the most minimal ones – get a fascinating cinematic tension.
In Banabila‘s diversely branched discography, the FMR series is connected to his electronic works (like The department of Electric Engineering releases) and thus quite a lot more experimental than his works for theatre, his jazz-related outings or his crossovers with world-music. Michel Banabila still manages to combine the best of a lot of musical worlds in his rapidly growing discography, and there’s no sign of slowing down!
MACHINEFABRIEK – DWAAL / WOLD Speaking of ‘no sign of slowing down’: Rutger ‘Machinefabriek‘ Zuydervelt only seems to increase his speed of releasing new albums: blink twice and his catalogue has changed. But even more impressive is that he is able to retain a very high quality level on all of his work.
Belgium based label Dauwreleased a cassette edition of two new works, both around 18 minutes. (The cassette edition has sold out fast, so you’ll have to do with the digital edition). Dwaal refers to ‘getting lost’, and I’m not sure about Wold but I guess it could be local dialect for ‘forest‘.
So there you have it: the best description these soundscapes can get.
Imagine a fog so thick that you cannot see your own hand when you stretch it out in front of you. Then imagine you’re walking through that fog in an unfamiliar landscape. (It’s a flawed comparision, I know, since this weather condition usually means complete silence and abscence of wind. Still: it is precisely that kind of feeling the multiple layers of white noise, distorted hiss and weird subtle details evokes).
[Edit April, 2018]
The cassette release on Dauw has sold out long ago, but Dwaal/Wold is re-released by Moving Furniture Records on CD and as a digital download. This re-release also contains two additional re-works of the tracks, by Nicola Ratti and Benoît Pioulard.
MACHINEFABRIEK – WENDINGEN As if his own output was not enough to convince us of his musical genius, Zoharum releases a compilation of remixes that Rutger ‘Machinefabriek‘ Zuydervelt has done for others. Almost all of the tracks of this compilation have been previously released, but most of them are hard to find now.
I am not sure whether to call this a ‘various artists compilation with tracks by different artists all remixed by Machinefabriek, or a Machinefabriek album with sound sources from different artists. These are remixes, created for different occasions, but all of them have the Machinefabriek trademark pouring out of every detail. So in the end, this definitely is a Machinefabriek album – with a lot of different guest artists.
Some of the collaborating artists are familiar: Wouter van Veldhoven, Aaron Martin, Fieldhead, Gareth Hardwick. But there are also some surprising names: such as Djivan Gasparyan (!) and Amon Tobin. Special props, by the way, to the cover (and inner) image, which perfectly captures the spirit Machinefabriek’s music!
ORPHAX – TIME WAVES With every new release, Sietse van der Erve (Orphax)‘s drones seem to go deeper and deeper. Time Wavesis a combination of a live recording and additional home recordings, inspired by his geology study – ‘when I learned a lot about the various eons, eras and periods, ages and what’s more used to describe time on the geological scale. While at one side it was always different on the other side some things never changed.’
However, as Sietse puts it: “if geologic time is too abstract for you, you can also just think of cat hair, just like you see in the pictures in this artwork.”
MATTHEW FLORIANZ – WASTELAND SIGNALS His earliest albums were released as Liquid Morphine, but soon Matthew Florianz released his music under his own name. There was a steady flow of releases – some of which gained a certain cult status among ambient music fans: titles like Grijsgebied and Molenstraat – before Florianz shifted focus to (game) sound design.
Though he continuously worked on soundscapes and soundtracks, there was a period of relative silence (no album releases) since 2011. In 2015 he released Tauernand Nocturne (Soundtrack for Science Briefings – which is exactly what they are: soundtracks for a video series about science unsolved mysteries).
(check below for free promo codes for this album)
And now there’s his new full album: ‘Wasteland Signals‘. Florianz has a personal sound, a musical style that is somewhat different from most other artists – or at least from those mentioned above.
With its lush use of synth-pads, it could perhaps be described as somewhat more ‘classical ambient’. The atmospheric background soundscapes, the kind that could’ve been written for a game soundtrack, are never far away. But perhaps most significant is that – in spite of its title – this album conveys hope, a sense of light that overcomes darkness.
Florianz used to live in The Hague, but followed his work to England. “While still living in The Hague, I started working on music that has followed me around to three different cities and another country entirely when I moved to the United Kingdom. The music has changed, but the underlying themes have always been travel and what to be let go of, to move on.”
The official Bandcamp release shows the nine tracks that make up Wasteland Signals, but the download adds another 42 minutes of bonus tracks!
PROMO CODES for ‘NOCTURNE’: Want to have a free copy of Matthew Florianz’ 93 minute album Nocturne – Soundtracks for Science Briefings? Matthew has kindly donated six giveaway promo-codes to download the full album!
Just leave a comment below! (Don’t forget to include the right e-mail address – and give thanks to Matthew later)
THOMAS KÖNER – THE FUTURIST MANIFESTO The controversial Manifesto of Futurism was written by Marinetti over 100 years ago. It’s ‘a rejection of the past and a celebration of speed, machinery, violence, youth and industry’. Parts of it can also be read as a glorification of the purifying violence of war – the only way to cleanse the world – and especially these words take a quite different meaning in current times.
In Thomas Köner‘s work for sound and moving images, fragments of this Manifest are slowly read by a whispering voice over Köner‘s characteristic – but in this case particularly dark and haunting – soundscapes. The images are vague, as is their exact relation to the text. They are assembled from decelerated and superimposed parts from film sources from 1909 and earlier, which brings out the ‘optical unconscious‘ movements and dimensions of reality. Which is in a way also what Köner’s music does: it brings out ‘the sonic unconscious’: ‘a Utopia of decelerations in defiance of the cult of ‘ubiquitous speed”.
Though the atmosphere is darker, more menacing, The Futurist Manifestois most related to Köner‘s Les Soeurs Lumière, from Unerforschtes Gebiet (2003). (You’ll probaby recognise some of the bell-like samples).
MULTICAST DYNAMICS – SCANDINAVIA Dutch media artist Samuel van Dijk (a.k.a. Multicast Dynamics)is working on a four-part release set. After the first two releases Scape(dealing with ‘dry land filled with light and streams’) and Aquatic System(about ‘the constantly changing surface of the oceans’), Scandinaviaexplores ‘a frozen and murky underwater world’. And a mysterious and fascinating world it is! Van Dijk uses ‘granular synthesis, obscure delay units and rudimentary looping techniques on magnetic tapes’ to create a fascinating array of soundscapes that perfectly match – yet are different from – both earlier releases. The nine tracks explore ‘arctic’ landscapes – ‘the inhospitable surrounding of frost and ice… Layers of hypnotic atmospheres with barely perceptible undercurrents.’ The overall atmosphere is dark and glacial. All sounds are created using electronic processing, but the result sounds remarkably organic. ‘Brooding pulses of bass and tonal patterns lead to the core of the sonic landscape. Gentle radiant layers of light and soil emerge and aquatic echoes expose new paths.’ Scandinaviacan of course also be enjoyed as a stand-alone release. But if you enjoy these kind of sounds, I strongly recommend to also check out the two preceding parts. The last part (‘the arrival in an interstellar space and the cosmos’) will be released in 2016.
Multicast Dynamicss – Kohta
MACHINEFABRIEK with ANNE BAKKER – DEINING Rutger ‘Machinefabriek‘ Zuydervelt and violinist Anne Bakkerhave previously worked together on Halfslaap II – a piece that aimed to ‘pull the listener into some sort of dreamstate’. On Deining(‘heave’, or ‘commotion’), the effect is about the opposite: the listener is increasingly alarmed and forced to stay alert.
For this 26 minute piece, Anne Bakker played a series of upward and downward glissandi: ‘I asked Anne Bakker to bow each string of her instrument while sliding slowly from the lowest note to the highest, for exactly five minutes, as fluent as possible. Anne also recorded the same procedure in reverse, following the strings from the edge of the fingerboard to the top nut of the instrument.’ Rutger then assembled different layers into four sections, each focusing on one string, also adding sine waves and radio static.
The result is as beautiful as it is frightening (or, in Rutger’s own words: ‘the taste is a tad bitter’). A clear demonstration of the effect that a specific arrangements of sounds can have on an emotional level.
It is hypnotizing too, and so it may still pull you into a dream state… but I don’t think anyone be able to sleep quietly with sounds like this playing.
Just as Halfslaap II was the duo’s reworking of Rutger’s original Halfslaap, Deiningcan be seen as a string reincarnation of Stroomtoon Eén, on which created the down- and upward glissandi using tone generators.
Edit 12-02-2016: The Bandcamppage has been updated and now includes a live recording of the striking performance of Deining on the International Film Festival Rotterdan (IFFR) on january, 29.
On this performance, the strings are performed by Anne Bakker (who performs violin solo on the studio recording), together with Lidwine Dam, Saskia Venegas and Pablo Kleinsmann on violin, and Nina Hitz on cello. With Rutger adding the waves and static of course.
If you already ordered/download Deining, you can simply redownload it from your Bandcamp collection to obtain the bonus live recording. And I strongly recommend to do so, because it’s an incredible performance!