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VVolk * Claudio F Baroni * Olivia Block

Olivia Block 132 Ranks

Se (In) De Bos


This is the third edition in the ongoing Book of Air project curated by Stijn and Bert Cools. The first release in this series was performed by the relatively small Fieldtone ensemble, while the second and third editions are performed by VVolk – a group of 18 improvisers with roots in jazz and classical music. Vvolk may very well be ‘the only ambient orchestra in the world’: (they also perform all night ‘laying down concerts’).

It’s incredible to hear such a large group of improvisers play so restrained, each member playing his/her part but no one claiming the lead, although the instrumental setting constantly shifts and there’s a change in dynamics like ebb and flow.

Vvolk investigates performing and improvising music, in close relation to present time; what are the possibilities in playing music, when changes in this music pass by unnoticed? How do we as musicians relate to the running time of a performance? This clearly challenges the improvising musicians, and makes audience and performers discover new territories in collective improvisation.”



If you don’t listen carefully, you might get the impression the complete orchestra suffers from narcolepsy – only to be kept awake by the slow but throbbing pulse of the three interwoven bass lines that the (somewhat enigmatic) album title Se (In) De Bos seems to refer to. But that would deny the adventurous beauty of this composition.
There is actually very múch happening in this 60 minute piece , but it requires attentive listening to recognise the constant change ‘inspired by the fluctuating objectivity of our daily observations’.



Claudio F. Baroni is a composer from Argentina, where he studied piano and sonology. In 1997 he moved to the Netherlands, studying composition at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague. His website presents an extensive work listbut for those not familiar with his work this release on Unsounds is a great introduction.

Motum (meaning ‘motion’) presents three different works performed by different ensembles.

In Circles II
in four movements of 8 minutes each, is performed by Ensemble Modelo62It is a piece ‘in a constant in-between state’. Reminiscent of Morton Feldman and Louis Andriessen’s ‘De Tijd’, the stretched chords are accentuated by various kinds of percussion instruments. The piece is defying the awareness of time, ‘through subtle shifts in timbre and register, tiny variations in intonation of common pitches [that] start acting between the instruments, along with the acoustic effects of the intervals and overtones themselves’.

Solo VIII-Airis performed by Ezequiel Menalled (artistic director of Modelo62, also from Argentina) and Claudio Baroni on organ. This composition is dedicated to Phil Niblock which may give an indication of what to expect.
“Pedals and manual keys are pressed down during the piece, but it’s not quite notes we are hearing. Instead the piece consists of registration changes, the knobs for registers being manipulated very slowly, and never fully pulled out. The result is a subdued, unpredictable, fluctuating sonority, an almost-organ, the sound of a complete choir of partial voices, with sometimes hints of a tone emerging.”
The impressive and overwhelming sound of the church organ, the breathing organism and the thundering low registers, is haunting, if not downright scary – especially when played at an appropriate volume.

With its 12 minutes and 13 seconds, Perpetuo Motum(performed by Quartetto Prometeo) is the shortest composition in this collection even though it it dedicated to ‘perpetual motion’. Compared to the previous two it is also the most demanding piece of the album.
“Whenever a player plays, it is on two strings: one stable note on an open string, and one slow glissando on a neighboring string. The result is a fascinating superimposition of two incommensurate musical logics. On the one hand, drone harmonies based on open fifths; on the other hand, a Xenakis-like world of pure glissando counterpoint, not based on harmony at all.”

Olivia Block 132 Ranks

OLIVIA BLOCK – 132 RANKS  Also on Spotify

Some of the works above may be be described as ‘minimalist’ to some extent. But perhaps they are ‘maximalist’ compared to Olivia Block‘s 132 Ranks, a sound installation for six speakers playing white noise, sine tones and pre-recorded organ sounds, combined with live performance on the enormous Skinner organ at the Rockefeller Memorial Chapel in Chicago. (However: there is an interesting similarity with Baroni’s ‘Solo VIII-Air’ mentioned above).

“The piece included both the lowest pedal notes, felt in the body, as well as the highest bell tones, played at extreme dynamic levels. At times, sounds were isolated in discrete locations to emphasise the chapel’s shape.”

It must have been an impressive performance. A church organ is one of the very few instruments that cannot be disconnected from its environment. In fact, the entire building it is located in is a part of the ‘instrument’. An organ like this, in an environment like this,  is impressive enough in itself, but even more when combined with a multichannel surround installation where the audience can walk freely, noticing ‘how the acoustics, materials and shape of the space altered the live and recorded organ sounds as Block performed.’

The live recording of Olivia Block‘s performance inevitably includes the sound of the audience moving around through the space. In some weird way this gives extra depth to the result. You can almost hear how small and insignificant people are compared to the large setting and the massive and inescapable sound of the Skinner organ.

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The Pitch * Ben Bertrand

Ben Bertrand


THE PITCH – S/T [κασετα]

I’m afraid I cannot tell you much more about The Pitch than you can’t find out yourself (which may be the case in most of the ‘recommendations’ on this blog: they are merely suggestions about where to look for some new surprises). I only found out about this quartet (Boris Baltschun, Koen Nutters, Michael Thieke, Morten J. Olsen) myself recently, when the stunning Frozen Orchestra album (with the Splitter Orchestra) and this charming cassette (= κασετα) dropped in my mailbox. The cassette version is limited to 120 copies, but there is a digital download version too.

S/T [κασετα] presents two 12 minute tracks. From the sound of the first track you might have the impression that this sound is mainly created with electronic means, but it’s not. Or only partly: the instruments are an electric pump organ, upright bass, vibraphone, clarinet, and additional computer and cassette delay. Molecular Motions starts as a drone, but gradually the composition gets more complex, especially in the second half of the Pillars B-side: “Bowed and struck vibraphone tones resonate with bowed bass harmonics, doubled by clarinet and reinforced by organ and sine tones.”

In the way this composition evolves, I started to hear (or perhaps imagine) a striking similarity with De Tijd, a composition by Louis Andriessen from 1982 – especially in the second half of Pillars.
I’m sure this is a coincidence: De Tijd is not particularly widely known and furthermore it is 36 years old. But it’s fun to check out anyhow, so here’s a Spotify link to it here so you can compare yourself. This is an impressive performance by the Schönberg Ensemble and Netherlands Chamber Choir directed by Reinbert de Leeuw. Best played loud, by the way!
The similarity of these two may be in my mind only (tell me if I’m wrong), but still… it’s fun to compare the Pitch quartet piece Pillars with the full orchestra+choir composition of Andriessen’s De Tijd.
I like to imagine that this 1982 version could have been a full orchestral re-arrangement of the second half of Pillars.

But – enough about that. Even without this similarity, S/T [κασετα] is interesting enough in its own right. With their particular electro-acoustic setup The Pitch manages to create “an atmosphere where the listeners perception is slowed down to make the smallest sonic details move from background to foreground.”

Ben Bertrand


Belgian bass clarinetist Ben Bertrand hooks up his instrument to a string of electronic effects effects to create a unique personal sound that is electronic and acoustic at the same time. His minimal compositions are dreamlike and warm and nicely wander off the beaten path, unhurried.

His work may be influenced by minimalists such as Steve Reich and Terry Riley, but Bertrand does not simply copy their composition techniques.
“He makes use of his clarinet – effects and loop pedals – to construct modal, hypnotic grooves, over which he plays microtonally-inflected clarinet phrases. The use of loops permits to phase patterns on which simple and audible processes let him explore musical concepts.”

NGC 1999 (the album and track titles refer to the ‘reflection nebula‘ in the Orion constellation, 1.500 light-years from Earth) is Bertrand‘s debut album, released on Les Ateliers (/Albums) Claus. But it is not his debut release: that was his 4-track EP Era/Area released in january 2017, which can still be found on Bandcamp

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Baker/Goff/Harris * Ze-Ka




Aidan Baker (guitar)Simon Goff (drums) and Thor Harris (violin) worked together on various occasions and decided to get together in may 2017 in Berlin for some recordings. In a few hours, they recorded their improvised sessions which were then edited and re-worked (but NO overdubs) into Noplace.

It is almost incredible to believe these sessions were improvised, since the trio sounds so tight and balanced. Guitar, violin and (especially) drums are an unusual combination for this kind of atmospheric music, but here the instruments are fully equal: they match and complement each other.

“Kinetic rhythms pulsate throughout whilst the guitar and violin jostle and weave around the metronomic beats, creating a cathartic and all-encompassing experience.”

With the pulsing beat and hypnotic rhythm this cannot really be filed under ‘ambient’ (Gizeh suggests Avant/Krautrock/Improv/Experimental), but with the  sustained drones there definitely is an ‘ambient’ atmosphere within the compelling rhythms.. a bit in the way Bill Laswell managed to combine ambient drones with fat funk beats.

Baker, Goff & Harris present a sound that is seldom heard – and probably quite overwhelming when experienced live!

Ze-Ka Ghost Planet

ZE-KA – GHOST PLANET  Also on Spotify

Ghost Planet starts with a deep modular kind of pulsating electronic hum (Fission) so it will take a while before realising that Jean-Philippe Feiss (Ze-Ka) is a french cellist, and that the cello is his main instrument on this album.
But Feiss is also heavily interested in electronic music, which means an album full of interesting explorations of both sounds.
And especially the combination of the two. Check, for instance, the way the cello drone from Gold River transforms into the analog synth sound of (what I assume is) the vintage Korg M10.
Or the other way around: the way the pulsating drone from Landscape morphs into a continuous cello chord. Two different sound worlds, from opposite origins, but a perfect match.
The result clearly more than the sum of its parts!

In the past, Feiss has worked with artists like Richard Bona and Patrick Watson as well as with many artists from the French jazz scene. But this is his first solo release, full of “minimalistic drones, made for thinking and retrospection”.
The environment is his musical inspiration – in a broad sense: which means positive connotations (Gold River, which expands over 24 minutes) as well as negative (Fission and Red Forest were inspired by the Tchernobyl disaster).

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Cut Worms * Michel Banabila * Jeroen Effern

Cut Worms Cable Mounds

Cut Worms Cable Mounds

CUT WORMS – CABLE MOUNDS   Also on Spotify

His first release Lumbar Fist was well-received (and rightly so). More than a year later, Richard ‘Cut Worms’ van Kruijsdijk continues to explore his  sonic soundworlds using ‘an array of ingeniously crossconnected effects to manipulate simple electronic sources, mainly a monophonic synth and a circuit-bent Omnichord, and some Baritone guitar.’

Prefab sounds are a no-go: he builds all compositions from scratch using this setup, improvising and recording without any overdubs. His musical experience can clearly be heard in the resulting works: in the past, Van Kruijsdijk has worked with people like Peter Christopherson, Edward Ka-Spel, Graham Lewis, Blaine Reininger, Richard Sinclair, Markus Stockhausen – just to name a few.
His musical biography spans many different musical realms. But as Cut Worms, he delves into beatless, and often quite dark (but not uncomfortably dark) ambient soundscapes.

Stop Motion


I’m a bit late to the party, perhaps, but still I think this release cannot go unmentioned:

Michel Banabila is one of the artists regularly featured on this blog: his (high volume) output is greatly appreciated – as you may have noticed in earlier posts.
Not long ago, I had the honour to present the free download of the full version of Dissolvethe 38:30 soundtrack for an installation of Gerco de Ruijter.

Dissolve is one of many video installations on which De Ruijter and Banabila have worked together, and Stop Motion is a (relatively short) overview of some of the soundtracks of their collaboration. The digital download is limited to the soundtracks only, of course. But on the Bandcamp page  Banabila also mentions the links to the related Vimeo pages of De Ruijter‘s work – so with a bit of creativity you can make it your own DIY-multimedia.
Dissolve version on this album is a 5’26” excerpt, so I suggest you also download the free full version as a bonus to this album.


On  this collection Michel Banabila shows his most ambient musical side, soundscapes that perfectly fit the image shifts of Gerco De Ruijter‘s landscape videos.

Jeroen Effern


A somewhat enigmatic set from Jeroen Effern – a Dutch artist I really know nothing about – except that he is from Velsen (Noord-Holland), has previously self-released four short albums (all available as Name-Your-Price downloads on his Bandcamp page), and that he presents himself as a painter on his website – without any mention of his musical activities.

“Why still make thing when there are so much beautiful already? Just because! According to Jeroen his work is exchangeable. He hesitates to call it ‘his own’. But it still is” 

‘Exchangeable’ or not, the music on this 30 minute album bears an interesting  personal style. From Satie-esque repeating piano-phrases (ILM Gerrit, No)  to floating string arrangements (Monsieur le Pauvre), sometimes backed with mournful found vocal samples (Nostalghia X) – these five compositions simply beg for hitting the ‘repeat’ button.

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Christoph Berg * Jeffrey Roden




Christoph Berg, the man formerly known as Field Rotationhas released music under his own name for quite some time now. The change is also reflected in his music: a slow drift from atmospheric ambient into more contemporary classical music, putting the string arrangements in the foreground (Berg plays the violin, double bass, organ and piano on this album).
It’s not a radical change, however: the music is still very atmospheric, with ‘ambient’ backgrounds, drones and subtle effects. It’s still recognisable as genuine Christoph Berg: subtle, withheld arrangements in a perfect production. Music that feels very ‘personal’ and intimate.

Conversations is released by Sonic Pieces – the ’boutique record label’ from Berlin. If you know the label, you know that’s a quality guarantee for musical content, production standard as well as for a stylish physical (limited) edition.

The tracks ‘essentially express contemplation, consciousness and the urge for retreat from the sometimes overwhelming present times’. It is fragile, comforting  and intimate music, but also heartbreaking sad at times. Apart from referring to Conversations, Monologue and Dialogue, the titles refer to Memories, Grief and Farewell. But it’s a beautiful melancholic kind of sad, not a really sad kind of sad…

The title track of the album has a somewhat disruptive effect: the amplified sound of the piano and organ’s mechanic pedals and the wood that the instruments are built with. Including the mechanical sounds of an instrument while playing is not new, of course, we’re used to it ever since Nils Frahm (among others) introduced this way of recording his piano. But here, Christoph Berg puts the sound in the foreground, amplifying it more than usual, until it feels like a strange, out-of-place sound. Even more so because the sound is not clearly related to the piano or organ: the string instruments play the lead part. It’s a confusing effect, sounding like clockwork, as if to remind us we only have limited time to have the important conversations before it’s time to say farewell…

For those that can appreciate a more classical sounding approach it may be interesting to know that Christoph Berg also released Bei, a collaboration album with pianist Henning Schmiedt: “a collection of instant compositions based on first takes that have been recorded in several improvisation sessions, intentionally opposing the habits of classical music by praising the beauty of imperfection.. 

Jeffrey Roden Threads of a Prayer 2


This is, of course, the follow-up to Threads of a Prayer Vol. 1.

Volume 1 presented two different kinds of instrumentation: one CD with compositions for piano and another with compositions for string ensemble. In this respect, Volume 2 seamlessly continues this concept, but this time on one single CD that “takes the listener even deeper into Roden’s mind – towards a space he refers to as ‘the other place'”.

The album opens with two pieces for string ensemble (The Field and As We Rise Up) and then continues with two pieces for solo piano (Threads of a Prayer and 6 Pieces for the Unknown).
The music is taken from the same sessions as Volume 1: “the same mood of introspection. Fragility and immediacy also prevails here”.
The album breathes the same ‘intensely quiet’ atmosphere, the same mindful calm. But it also introduces new instrumental aspects such as the drone organ in As We Rise Up (performed by Tobias Fischer).

All of these compositions radiate an immersive calm that may be unsettling to some.  In the second half of the album, the piano solo compositions (performed by Sandro Ivo Bartoli) the silence-between-the-notes become more important than they ever were.

Jeffrey Roden‘s music has been compared to that of Arvo Pärt and Morton Feldman for obvious reasons. But to be honest Arvo Pärt feels like a speedfreak when you’re listening to Threads of Prayer and 6 Pieces for the Unknown.
In these hectic times, it may take some getting used to music that feels “monumentally long and almost outside of time”… which is exactly what Jeffrey Roden is aiming at.
Moments of reflection and mindfulness like this might be one important thing the world needs today.

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Kid Koala + Emiliana Torrini * Mario Batkovic

Mario Batkovic

Music to Draw to


No matter what specific genre you’re into, there’s always that moment that ‘sameness’ begins to bother you a bit. Too many people copying the familiar sounds, too few people pushing the boundaries. That is the moment that you’ll welcome a fresh wind, an album displaying an original point of view,  an unexpected surprise. Music to Draw To is such a surprise (at least for me).

The album title in itself refers to many classic ambient albums. It’s a reference to the live events where Kid Koala (Eric San, from Montreal) played his music while he invited the audience to draw. You can take this literally, too: the Deluxe CD version comes with a hardcover sketchbook.
But who would expect the scratch DJ/turntablist, known for his Ninja Tune albums and his live-sets with Radiohead, Beastie Boys, Arcade Fire, DJ Shadow and many more, would completely leave out the samples in favor of synthesizers, keyboards and guitar to create an album full of (18) atmospheric ambient pieces?

Music to Draw To is also the start of a new series featuring different vocalists, with Kid Koala writing and producing and performing.
The guest vocalist on this particular album is Emiliana Torriniwhose whispering dreamy voice and endearing Icelandic accent adds an irresistible romantic flavor to the seven songs on this album that feature her. Songs that “tell a tale of discovery and loss through the lens of lovers separated by an early space mission to Mars”.

It’s ‘ambient-pop’, more than ‘ambient’ by its strict definition.
But who really cares if it’s also music to make you dream? … Ánd draw?

Mario Batkovic


I saw many concerts at last year’s Le Guess Who festival in Utrecht, but the performance of Mario Batkovic was one of the most impressive I attended.
A Bosnian/Swiss guy, performing his solo work on his Zerosette Accordion to an audience that probably hardly knew what to expect apart from what they read in the festival program notes.

In Batkovic’ hands, the accordion sounds as powerful as a full orchestra. You have to look twice to check that he is only using his two hands… and then again to check that there really are no additional effects or electronics.
He filled the church completely with his majestic sound, and received  a well deserved ovation from a stunned audience.
This picture perfectly captures the experience (photo by Tim van Veen):

Batkovic LGW 16 photo by Tim van Veen


To give an impression of his mastership, here’s a video from an intimate session on the Eurosonic/Noorderslag festival in January 2017 (with thanks & credits to 3voor12):


Batkovic’s album was first released in 2015 on the Veruston label as “Solo”. It has been almost impossible to find until now, unless you were lucky enough to attend one of Batkovic’ performances.

Fortunately it is now (re-)released on Invada Records – including two additional tracks: Semper and Eloquens.

Most of the compositions on this album are built upon repetitive themes, in a way that reminisces the minimalist work of Philip Glass – but with the accordion as the full ensemble packed into one single instrument.
If you (like many) unfairly think the accordeon is an uncool instrument, not suitable for performing exciting music, this album proves you’re wrong.
And if you experience Batkovic performing live, without the help of any additional effect, you will realise you were VERY wrong.

Note: the Bandcamp link only offers the digital download version. Check the Invada site to obtain vinyl/CD version.

Also on Spotify

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CEEYS; Poppy Nogood; Joe Frawley

Two brothers from Berlin, Sebastian and Daniel Selke recorded this intimate live performance in a church. They are both classically trained, but their music has many different influences – jazz, minimal, ambient and pop – and transcends all of them. Cello and piano are their primary instruments, but their music is different from the overwhelming stream of ‘post-classical’ music released recently, because of their use of electronics, synth pads and field recordings. Not just the ordinary contemporary electronics, but the use of some original, restored electronic instruments by East-German company Vermona back in the 70’s and 80’s like this one: the ER 9 rhythm box.

This combination of sound, combined with the duo’s skills and experience, the jam-session live setting and the well-recorded acoustics of the Grünewald church – all these details result in an outstanding album. Which, by the way, is presented as a ‘sketchbook’ for their upcoming studio album Concrete Fields, to be released later this year.
Talk about setting a high standard….!

Also on Spotify

Music for Mourning

It is to remain unclear for now who is hiding behind the Poppy Nogood alias, but it’s an easy guess that he (or she) is inspired by the Terry Riley composition Poppy Nogood and the Phantom Band (from the 1969 album A Rainbow in Curved Air – a piece for heavily dubbed soprano sax and electric organ – and reel-to-reel tape loops knows as the time lag accumulator).

For Music for Mourning, this anonymous Poppy Nogood plays the violin as the main instrument, and Steve Reich, Max Richter and Bing & Ruth are credited as other major (and recognisable) influences.
Similar to Kreng’s impressive album The Summoner, this album represents various stages of mourning: it starts calm and mournful (Max Richter style), but gradually the mood changes and in the second half of this short album other (more intense emotions) kick in. This is narrative ‘program music’, even though the compositions are created from improvising: “I really don’t know where I’m going until I start recording”.

Though this is the first album on Preserved Sound, I’m sure that Poppy Nogood has released other work before (I seem to recognise the violin sound and playing style but cannot really attach a name to it). But in the end that doesn’t really matter: it’s the music that speaks for itself!


With his combination of acoustic instruments (piano, violin, glass xylophone), background electronics, found sounds and vocal samples, Joe Frawley has developed a unique (and immediately recognisable) personal style.
Dreamy, somewhat psychedelic in nature, a bit confusing too: it’s not always clear if the dreams are pleasant or nightmarish.

Cartomancer refers to Olney H. Richmond, author of The Mystic Test Book(1893), outlining ‘a complex system for using a standard deck of playing cards for divinatory purposes’. He was the founder of the Order of the Magi, one of the many astrological religions founded in 19th century America.

There’s a fascinating story behind this album, but it’s not necessary to know about all of this the slightly occult undertones of this music. And that’s because Joe Frawley is perfectly capable to capture the enigmatic atmosphere in his music.

Also on Spotify

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Soccer Committee / Machinefabriek: “Soccer Machine Mix”

Soccer Machine

A few days ago, Wouter van Veldhoven mentioned his praise for Soccer Committee‘s album sC (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.

Soccer Machine SequenceThis mix contains Soccer Committee Songs:

  • Here I go again (sC, 2007)
  • Moi et mon Coeur (Soccer Committee, 2005)
  • Le Jardin (Soccer Committee, 2005)
  • Carps (sC, 2007)
  • Stripping the Nude (sC, 2007)
  • Blessed (sC, 2007)
  • True (Soccer Committee, 2005)
  • Look at You (Soccer Committee, 2005)
  • White Stone (sC, 2007)

…interspersed with (fragments of) tracks by Machinefabriek:

  • Het waait over (Fabriek + Fabriek, 2007) 
  • Maris (Weleer, 2007)
  • Licht (Bijeen, 2007)
  • Stoffig Stuk (Wouter van Veldhoven – Ruststukken, 2007)
  • Stofstuk (Stofstuk, 2007)
  • Carps (Remix) (Carps (Machinefabriek Remix), 2006)
  • Fluister (Weleer, 2007)
  • Donderwolk (Weleer, 2007)
  • Verdrinkwater (Bijeen, 2007)
  • Zeeg (Baars, van Veldhoven, Zuydervelt – Zeeg, 2007)
  • Slaapmiddel (Slaapzucht, 2007)
  • Wieg (Huis, 2007)
  • Bloesem (Huis, 2007)
  • Schaduw (Huis, 2007)
  • Polderlicht (Fabriek + Fabriek, 2007)
  • Thole (Thole, 2007)
  • Zucht 2 (Slaapzucht, 2007)
  • Slaapzacht (Huis, 2007)
  • The African Guy (Manchester, 2005)
  • Kinderboerderij (Huis, 2007)
  • Piano.wav (Bijeen, 2007)
  • Curb (Manchester, 2005)
  • Het is weer vroeg donker (Bij Mirjam, 2004)

Download SOCCER MACHINE Now (95Mb; 60:00 min.)

Or stream it on Mixcloud:

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Max Richter – (From) Sleep

Max Richter - Sleep

From 7″-single, 12″-single, vinyl album to compact disc, the physical format has always limited the maximum length of an album. But with internet broadband availability this has stopped being a limiting factor: compositions can be as long as the composer wants them to be.
If you forget about download versions but focus on streaming audio, there is no limit in length at all: check for instance, a web stream of a thousand (!) year long  composition – and a nice one to listen to, too!

This does not mean that there were no long-form compositions ‘before the internet’: around 1985 John Cage (who else!) wrote ‘As SLow aS Possible’ (ASLSP) for organ – it’s performance in Halberstadt, Germany, ‘started in 2001 and is scheduled to have a duration of 639 years, ending in 2640’.

Long-form compositions are a challenge to a composer, because he (she) has to deal with the audience’s relatively short attention span: not many people will be able to focus and keep their concentration for 4 hours or even more.
For this reason, it is no surprise that several long-form experiments are found in the realm of ambient music, and are often written to be played during sleep.
Some examples from this blog alone: Robert Rich‘s Sleep projects Somnium” and Perpetual“, Stephan Mathieu‘s “Nachststücke” and Marsen Jules’ 24 hour version of The Endless Change of Colour“. And let’s not forget about Leif Inge‘s 24 hours stretched version of Beethoven’s Ninth (9Beet Stretch“)!

Enter Max Richter, who recently surprised the musical world with his latest project called SLEEP” an 8 hour (+ 24 minutes)  composition, intended to help you sleep.
It is not a drone piece, but a set of 31 ‘variations’ meant to be played in a continuous sequence. It is not a purely electronic piece either (although there is a significant role for synth and electronics). The main themes are performed by a real-life ensemble: the American Contemporary Music Ensemble, featuring the beautiful soprano voice of Grace Davidson and Max Richter himself playing piano, organ, synth and electronics.
Different sleep phases are represented with their own variations. The thematic parts – performed in various settings by the acoustic ensemble – representing the moments of lighter sleep, while phases of deep sleep are guided by less distinct synth drones and abstract soundscapes.

“It is a piece that is meant to be listened to at night.”

Its purpose is nót to be a full-fledged dramatic symphony with extreme dynamics. That would only keep you awake. The basic themes sound deceptively simple, and are often repeated in (slightly) different variations – resulting in a soothing effect, a vaguely familiar feeling.
But don’t underestimate the difficulty of playing relatively ‘simple’ themes like this – especially in a live setting!

“Somehow, in Europe, over the last century, as complexity and inaccessibility became equated with intelligence and the avant-garde, we lost something along the way. Modernism gave us so many stunning works, but we also lost our lullabies.”

But: lullabies had a specific purpose – they were sung to help you fall asleep. They were not sung continuously for the rest of the night until you woke up… So how is this different?

“It’s a set of questions. Is there a difference between ‘listening’ to music and ‘hearing’ it? Is there even such a thing as listening while you’re sleeping, because we don’t ascribe that sort of intentionality to sleep?”

To be honest: I have tried but could not sleep to it very well. Partly because I’m a light sleeper, but also because there are certain aspects in the work that do demand attention – it is not completely ‘ignorable’.
So I prefer playing it at daytime. It has the exact length of a working day, and proves to be a great accompaniment for a full days work, at home, alone.
I found out that the piece does not become boring or irritating for a single moment – and in fact that was a big surprise for me because I expected it to be almost impossible to listen to a work like this uninterrupted, while awake. The repeating themes effectively work their way into your subconscious; they are like a favourite hit-single on heavy radio rotation.
And, after the piece is ended and switched off, they won’t easily leave your mind.

Due to it’s length, SLEEP” can only be downloaded as MP3-album.
Unfortunately, Deutsche Grammophon has decided to offer it through iTunes only. A strange choice, since it should’ve been offered cross-platform of course, preferrably with the choice of lossless versions too. Many have asked that question so who knows what will happen in the near future.

From Sleep

Not everyone will have the patience to sit through a composition of this length.
For those (ánd for those that want physical copies), there is also a one hour edition, from SLEEP, released on vinyl and CD. This is a kind of ‘abstract’ from the larger work, containing different and shorter versions of the full-scale variations.
And, if that is still not enough for you, you may want to check Rough Trade, who made this their album of the month and include yet another 3-track (30 minute) bonus CD!

Also on Spotify

(from ‘from SLEEP’)

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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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