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Kleefstra/Bakker/Kleefstra (x3) * Tsjinlûd

Dize

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

KLEEFSTRA / BAKKER / KLEEFSTRA – 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


Tsjinlûd

TSJINLÛD

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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Chris Dooks – 300 Square Miles of Upwards


300 Square Miles

Shortly after the release of The Eskdalemuir Harmonium”, Chris Dooks releases the second part of what will become a colourful Idioholism trilogy.

300 Square Miles of Upwards” is released in a stunning package (designed by Rutger ‘Machinefabriek’ Zuydervelt): a bright blue vinyl 12″ album that also comes with an (extended) digital download version including a video version of the opener track ‘Gardening As Astonomy’.

The brightly coloured trilogy is not only interesting artistically and musically. It is is also the result of Dook’s personal battle against his chronic fatigue syndrome:
“Wherever medicine has abandoned its caring role, or simply has no available cure, sufferers of incurable chronic illnesses frequently turn to experimental and experiential strategies. Such strategies can seem an outlandish or surreal response to illness; for example, working closely with an abandoned and decrepit harmonium in the Scottish borders or forging Twitter-length statements about the universe may not be on the medical map, but to artists, these processes are a way of life. Within three main inter-reliant art projects, this autoethnographic experiment is not just occupational therapy for the afflicted, but a path of discovery by first-person experience.”

The preceding release was a poetic investigation of the sounds of a forgotten and somewhat deteriorated harmonium.
On300 Square Miles of Upwards”, Dooks investigates the relation of astronomy with earthly phenomena:
“I read somewhere recently that one reason we know that the su’s solar energy peaks in 13 years ejections is because the trunks of felled trees have thicker bark around these periods”.

The tracks are created from vocal samples (most from Scotland, but also in Polish and Japanese) that are cut-up and looped and merged with the additional background of environmental field recordings, three pianos and a Korg Monotron. The way Dooks re-arranges the samples and builds an atmosphere with is almost visual, which should be no surprise regarding Chris’ experience in photography, film and TV.

With these selection of tracks, Dooks paints deeply emotional pictures that, at some moments, reminded me of the early (tape) works of Steve Reich or Gavin Bryars’ “Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet”.
Just listen to “Conversation with a Boy” (below) to hear what I mean.

Tracks featuring spoken word samples are different from instrumental ambient tracks in that they require a more dedicated, active listening – they can’t simply be played in the background and be ‘ignorable’.
But it’s rewarding to do so.
When you listen closely, your world will look different afterwards.


CHRIS DOOKS – CONVERSATION WITH A BOY

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The Dwindlers – Allegories

Dwindlers

Following up Leonardo Rosado’s “Mute Words, this is the second release on the Heart and Soul label, which was founded to release projects that combine music and poetry.

The Dwindlers are a duo consisting of Michelle Seaman, poet, and Benjamin Dauer, composer and multi-instrumentalist. Although they have been working together since 2002, Allegoriesis their second album, following up their 2010 debut release Dreams”.

There are seven tracks – six vocal tracks divided by a beautiful ambient instrumental track called “Pickering’s Hyla“.

Benjamin Dauer’s main instrument is the acoustic bass, creating the basic rhythm which is further coloured with atmospheric ambient sounds that perfectly fit Michelle Seaman’s incredibly sultry vocals.
To me, her voice has about the same hypnotic quality as Laurie Anderson’s, especially in the slow, dreamy tracks.

“‘Allegories‘ is an effort to change stories of pain and fear into stories of grace. Inspired by the elegant movement of animals, birds, and insects, this collection hopes to charm, and sometimes challenge, the listener.”

It will be released on March 15, 2012, and will be available as a digital download, but also in a limited physical (paperbook) edition of 50. Because of the limited physical release, pre-ordering is advised if you want a physical copy.


The Dwindlers – Peacock and the Kitty

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Kleefstra-Pruiksma-Kleefsta – Deislieper

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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Leonardo Rosado – Mute Words

Mute Words

However deep and fascinating ‘classic’ (drone) ambient music may be, listening too much of the same kind can get a little eh… same-ish. The borders and boundaries need to be stretched in some ways, and that’s where the adventurous music tends to start.  Even though, by strict definition, this may or may not be called ‘ambient’ music at all (such as with a lot of the post-classical or improvised acoustic music lately).

I don’t really know, but this may very well have been one of the reasons for Leonardo Rosado, also known as the curator of the Feedbackloop label (with its impressive catalogue of ambient/experimental music), to start a new label with a somewhat different concept: Heart and Soul.

Heart and Soul  will focus on combining poetry and music, and will release albums in physical formats only (so NO downloads!): a paperback book combined with the CD in this particular case.
Editions are “totally homemade” – but unlike many others not ‘strictly limited’, because they are made on demand. 

The very first release on this Feedbackloop sister label is Rosado’s own Mute Words

The poetry and the music on Mute Wordsis written by Leonardo Rosado. But do not expect ‘spoken word’ poetry on this album:
“Mute Words explores the delicate boundary between thoughts and words”. 
“Guest vocals are brought in almost imperceptibly, adding further dimension to the floating and ephemeral drone works.” 

The first vocal track, featuring Barbara de Dominices‘  voice, tries to reach you fragmented and multi-layered, as if coming from a distant dream,  while the last track (voiced by Alicia Merz) is in fact more ‘sung’ than ‘spoken’. Michelle Seaman (half of the Dwindlers) performes “The Study of Doubt” ; to me, her voice has the same kind of spellbinding and hypnotizing quality as Laurie Anderson’s.

With these three tracks being about half of the album, one could hardly call this a ‘vocal’ album. The other half. the instrumental tracks, perfectly match the atmosphere, thus making Mute Words  a well balanced introduction the new label concept of Heart and Soul .

Leonardo Rosado has set himself a high quality standard for this label!

Mute Words  is released on 2 december 2011, but can be pre-ordered now.


Leonardo Rosado with Michelle Seaman – The Study of Doubt

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Lukanov & Mytrip; Leonardo Rosado; Jonathan Read; Desert of Hiatus; Aria Rostami

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, I think they deserve your attention (use the links to find more info and hear previews).

Two

Martin Lukanov & Mytrip – Two
With strict timings (10’01”, 0’10”, 1’00” etc. ) and titles that indicate timings and position of each (ml-s mt-e, mt-l ml-r), Martin  Lukanov (classically trained pianist and sound artist) and Mytrip (“negative dark ambient/drone project from the not so developed Bulgarian ambient scene”) present “a minimalist walk beyond and within the boundaries of drone ambient, accompanied by a gentle and melancholic piano on the verge between isolation and loneliness.”

Opague Glitter

Leonardo Rosado – Opague Glitter
After publishing 1.5 hour of music as “the Opaque Glitter Sessions”, Leonardo Rosado (who is also the curator of the FeedbackLoop label) asked his listeners to vote for their favorite 8 songs from this collection, thus compiling FeedbackLoop Label’s first ‘official’ CDr. As an extra, the release also includes a photograph with a poem of choice: 8 photos and 8 poems = 64 unique combinations!

Volans 2

Jonathan Read – Volans 2
“Follow up to his 2010 work. ‘Volans 2’ covers a different, possibly more outwardly emotive musical terrain but has a certain sentiment and spacious, deep sound in common with it’s predecessor. Hints at selenographic matters link with the notion of cocooned space travel.”

Desert of Hiatus

Desert of Hiatus – The Meaning
Not much is known about the Desert of Hiatus, apart from the fact that he (Kevin Gwozdz) comes from Portland, Oregon, and that this album deals with explaining The Meaning of Love, of Space, of Flight, of Sound, of Nature, of Time, of Sleep and ultimately The Meaning of Life!

Rostami - Form

Aria Rostami – Form
“This work reflects my understanding and appreciation for all things coming to an end. It carries a bittersweet sentiment, a dying organism so to speak. It is a desperate attempt to latch onto form, but losing it all to the elements. It is a battle between what an individual pursues and the overwhelming power of nature.” 

 

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Piiptsjilling – Wurdskrieme

Wurdskrieme

On the debut release in 2008, Piiptsjilling was the name of the album performed by Machinefabriek & Jan Kleefstra, together with Romke Kleefstra and Mariska Baars.
Following this remarkable debut, the original contributors have kept working together and performing in as well as outside Holland – to growing critical acclaim.

Now, Piiptsjilling is used as the name of the band.

One might think this kind of spoken word music, spoken in the Frisian language (Friesland is a province in the north of the Netherlands) would be of local interest only.
Luckily, the opposite prove to be true: the message of their music came across widely outside Friesland too.

The new Piiptsjilling album, called “Wurdskrieme(Cry of Words) is now released on Experimedia.net.
Compared to the original Piiptsjilling album, it’s a quite different view of the same concept.

Wurdskrieme was recorded in improvisational sessions in March 6/7, 2010. (Other recordings from the same session will soon be released as Molkedrippen on the Spekk label).

The improvised sessions were post-processed by Rutger ‘Machinefabriek’ Zuydervelt (and masterfully mastered by Taylor Deupree), maintaining the live feel but adding a different sonic dimension. It is this fact that results in an extraordinary, unusual feeling of timelessness.

Like the earlier releases (Yes: plural, since Wink should also be considered a Piiptsjilling release, although it was recorded as Kleefstra-Bakker-Kleefstra), these tracks have a dreamlike, unhurried feel.

This is clear from the beginning of  Unkrûd (Ill Weeds), which starts out like an Indian raga with Mariska’s vocals over a slow guitar drone.
But the ‘nocturnal atmospheres’ change into quite dark (in Sangerjende Wyn (Lilting Wind)) – and into a downright uneasy, seemingly undirected, improv guitar instrumental (Utsakke Bui). From there, it’s back again into dreamy realms.

Though they are using elements already existing elsewhere, they manage to create music in a completely new and unique context.

While Piiptsjilling stays close to what they started, this “experimental supergroup” clearly is unafraid to stretch borders and to explore new directions.
Which they shóuld of course, otherwise they would not be ‘experimental’…

 

Spotify– (Also on Spotify)

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Kleefstra/Bakker/Kleefstra – Wink

Wink

If you’re a collector that likes to have your music on a physical CD, times are rapidly getting harder. Especially in the ambient and experimental genre, where more and more releases are handmade do-it-yourself releases in extremely limited editions.

Take Wixel’s 2009 project, for instance: one CD every month, every edition physically released in the number of days of that particular month (but at least these are later rereleased in simpler packaging and available as digital downloads too). Even a relatively ‘big name’ like Thomas Köner releases his latest CD ‘La Barca‘ in a limited edition of 600 copies only.
By the time the news of a new release reaches you, chances are the album is sold out and unavailable physically.

Such is the case with Wink, the new album by Kleefstra / Bakker / Kleefstra.
Although I thought I acted quickly, my handpainted CD (!) and handpainted cover bears the number 90 – of only 100! So I guess it’s sold out the moment you read this…

So what’s the use of this blogpost then?

Well, it may be re-released later, maybe you’ll stumble upon a copy sometimes, maybe it will later be made available as digital download, or you may even be able to attend a Wink live performance.

Wink can be described as ‘Piiptsjilling‘ part 2. Though Machinefabriek (Rutger Zuydervelt) is no part of this project, the overall atmosphere is quite the same on both releases.

Wink is a single 27 minute track over which  a 6 part poem is spoken dreamily. Most people will probably not understand a word of the Frysian language spoken, but for those who want to know the poem is translated in dutch as well as english.

Romke Kleefstra (guitar + loops) and Anne Chris Bakker (guitars, effects) create a perfectly fitting background sculpture of guitar drones and softly evolving mininal loops for Jan Kleefstra‘s quietly spoken but haunting words.

Like ‘Piiptsjilling‘, Wink deserves to be heard outside Friesland also, outside Holland even: this language is universal.

hast altyd mei stiennen tôge
altyd mei de únrés de sleat
om dyb tinzen útheakkele
(You were always hauling stones
always dredging with unease
the pond around your thoughts)
 

Wink is (or was) released on Apollolaan Records. I guess you should haunt them for a re-release.
Tour dates can be found on the Kleefstra Myspace page. As well as a live recording of a Wink performance that can be downloaded until the end of october!

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Machinefabriek & Soccer Committee – Drawn

Drawn

‘Opposites attract’. That’s quite appropriate when talking about Machinefabriek and Soccer Committee working together.

Their music seems quite incompatible at first: intimate acoustic folk vs. gritty electronics.
But Mariska Baars (Soccer Committee) and Rutger Zuydervelt (Machinefabriek) have been playing together more often in the past.

On the beautiful Piiptsjilling for instance, together with Frysian poet Jan Kleefstra (one of the most beautiful releases of 2008 for me).

Especially if you think you know what to expect, Drawn may come as a surprise.
Mariska Baars’ voice is heavily treated to dreamlike, almost hallucinatory effect.
This results in ‘Drawn’ being a bit more ‘Machinefabriek’ than ‘Soccer Committee’…but on the other hand this would have been a very different release without Mariska’s influence.
Whatever way you look at it, this is another impressive release in their discography. Check it out (and order at www.machinefabriek.nu)

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