Sound Bytes : Machinefabriek Special

Anyone who knows Rutger Zuydervelt must be amazed by the amount of work this man can produce. From my count, there are about five full length albums in 2009, six in 2010, seven in 2011, and about four half way into 2012 – and I’ll bet there’ll be four more before the year is over! Besides Celer, The only other musician as prolific as Zuydervelt must be Aidan Baker – and why haven’t these two worked together yet? Keeping up with Machinefabriek is nearly impossible, especially for a music connoisseur tempted with collecting every single release from one of his favorite artists. For this Sound Bytes special, I wanted to focus on Zuydervelt’s range as a musician, and an abundant collaborator with artists all over the world.

Gareth Davis & Machinefabriek
Sonic Pieces
Gareth Davis and Rutger Zuydervelt have first met around 2009, when the duo recorded their first piece, Soundlines. After the limited edition EP was self-released by Machinefabriek, the duo didn’t waste any time, and put out another 3″ CDr, titled Ghost Lanes [which later got picked up by Dekorder with an additional track]. A year later, Davis and Zuydervelt got together again, this time for an album for Home Normal, titled Drape. And now the two appear on Sonic Pieces, with a two-part, Grower. Those familiar with Davis, can instantly imagine the brooding darkness this clarinetist can contribute to Zuydervelt’s shuffling treatments. At times barely audible, woodwind breathes over low rumbling drones, creating a stilled atmosphere where even a pin drop gets picked up by the mic. The tender poise of each wave is slowly cultivated through a unique language among the two musicians, allowing the sound to unfold on its own, in environment free of grievance.  Focusing on the music, or just letting it seep, is something a mind must decide on its own. In either case, the meditative piece will reward those with patience. No wonder Grower was featured on Headphone Commute’s Best of 2011, Music For Sonic Installations In the Cavern Of Your Skull. Be sure to also check out my review of Gareth Davis & Frances-Marie Uitti Gramercy, out on Miasmah. I’m sure we’ll hear from the two again…

‎For Stroomtoon (which can be translated as “the sound of electricity”) we find Rutger produce a totally electronic piece (as opposed to organic ambient), creating textured drones from an analog tone generator and loop pedals. Beginning with an auditory illusion of a descending Shepard glissando (a superposition of sine waves that appears to continuously pitch down ad infinitum), the 18-minute synthetic chant is superimposed with Machinefabriek‘s staple static, crackling sounds, and echoing field recordings (Mastered by Giuseppe Ielasi). Additional pulsating sequences are added beneath the high pitched piercing frequency (my dog ran away), to further explore the possibilities of sine waves and filtered harmonics. “The original idea was to use parts of these recordings in unedited form, but playing around with these soundfiles, the end result became much more layered and detailed, while still keeping the raw energy of the original material intact.” This is unlike the poised and moderate Machinefabriek you’re used to. At times the bass ramps up in volume and begins to vibrate the dust beneath the wooden frame of my house, until the hiding insects die from bursting little hearts (they do have hearts, don’t they?). This is indeed the sound of gigantic thermal power plants, dynamo electric generators, and high voltage power lines. For fans of buzzing minimalism and analog tones.

Celer & Machinefabriek
Greetings From…
It’s almost impossible to keep up with the speed of Will Long and Rutger Zuydervelt. By the time I have finished writing this review, I guess probably at least three new releases will have emerged which are all also worth hearing… Following up their 7″ collaboration, “Maastunnel – Mt. Mitake”, they recently did a short tour through Holland (and Brussel). Recordings of these sets have now been released simultaneously with the duo’s second 7″ single “Numa – Penarie“. The physical part of the Greetings from Celer and Machinefabriek tour set consists of 8 postcards featuring snapshots from the nearby concert locations (which are not always the kind of images the local tourist board would publish, by the way). From the tour impressions written on the back of the cards we learn that the tour was great overall, but the closing night at Drachten obviously turned out to some kind of unexpected anti-climax: “Not to be rude, but this was almost like performing in an elderly home.” The digital counterpart of the set features a recording of sets from the full tour: almost 3 hours of improvised music for a ridiculously low price of only 5€ (including the postcards)! I expected that all sets would be somewhat identical in a tour like this. But I clearly misjudged these guys’ improvisational talents! Of course, the overall feeling is similar across these tracks. There are some distinct elements and themes returning at different times and in a different context. But there’s always something different happening: Celer creates atmospheric back-ground drones while Machinefabriek is constantly busy manipulating all kind of wired objects. The result is a fascinating blend of dreamlike drone-backgrounds, found sounds, radio fragments, spoken word and environmental recordings. A lot of room is left for spontaneous inci-dents (and coincidental humor, like a hunter elaborating on ‘elk talk’, or a voicemail recording of someone asking for help because ‘the internet won’t start up’). Even after listening to the full three hours I still felt this roller-coaster ride was over much too soon!

Colour Tones
Fang Bomb
[Colour Tones by Machinefabriek is a musical re-imagining of the colour-based fairy tales written by Latvian writer Imants Ziedonis.  In writing his review, Richard Allen translates the music back into fairy tales…] Can you see the colour you are listening to? Shoots of static seek shelter from the burgeoning earth. The frost is cracking, crunching, clutching. This is the risk the plant takes: to rise, to spill forth, to extend a fair leaf to the sun, early as it may yet be – the brief-being as opposed to the not-being. As the leaves turn from litter to mulch, one colour gives way to the next, chemical compounds conquering the inert. The film reel begins to sputter like unintended consequence. So much contained in this missive, so many passions fallen short. Could such feelings ever be revived? or would disappointment wrap them into an angrier ancestor, a vestigial remnant of coarser emotion? In matters of the heart, who can predict the prevailing chamber? As the plane descends, much remains unclear: the fog on the runway, the mirror dimly, the clouded thought. As a child, she gravitated toward bright colors, made designations based on category and shade. But the shrouded, the luminal, the in-between – no one had prepared her for this. And now the wheels are touching down. The tarmac extends into the unseen. Whirls, knocks, drum rolls: movement is in the air. Insects buzz around the cello, its grain sustained by varnish and rag. Pieced together by wood from the family farm, its form is imperfect, its resonance divine. The stick cries out to the bow, have they captured you too? But the bow only smiles, pliable, content to be drawn, rather than to strike. No, she insists, clutching the side of her bed, seeming to stare through bandaged eyes. Never speak his name again. Instead, tell me of the sea. How is she this day, reticent or bold? Does she swirl and foam, does she rest and recede, does she rise up and retreat? The water in my body cries out to hers. We take what is given. We wash and abrade. We smooth and we destroy.


“Grower” and “Stroomtoon” reviewed by HC of Headphone Commute.
“Greetings From…” reviewed by Peter van Cooten of Ambient Blog.
“Colour Tones” reviewed by Richard Allen of A Closer Listen.
All reviews republished with permission of the authors.