Banabila & Machinefabriek
5. Night Scenes
CDr/download on Eilean Rec., January 2019
Stream and/or buy at Bandcamp,
send an with your order
Michel Banabila and Rutger Zuydervelt (aka Machinefabriek) have been collaborating since 2012. Although they both reside in Rotterdam, they (besides coming together for coffee) prefer to use the old file-swap-way of working. With each album, sounds and song drafts are frantically sent back and forth, in a short but super intense timespan of a week or two. This spontaneity is clearly audible throughout their music, with each album having its own distinct character.
After the tight, post fourth world of 'Macrocosms', their fifth album 'Entropia' veers into much rougher terrain, adding distorted field recordings, bursting noise, nasty jump cuts and an overal sense of chaotic abstraction to the mix. 'Entropia' is definitely one of their more challenging efforts, an adventurous yet coherent sonic journey.
Entropia’s whirring and bleeping is a muted form of dialogue, its motherboard giving off an electronic discourse from the mouth of a secretive operating system. Its stable, fan-like humming and its localized clicks emanate from something like a server room, but it quickly segues into something more ominous. Artificial intelligence is on the rise, and if it broke one of the world’s greatest chess grandmasters decades ago, it’s certainly improved upon and advanced itself in the time since. AI continues to develop at a rapid pace, and sometimes with eerie results. When Microsoft unveiled Tay, their artificial intelligence chatter bot, three years ago, she caused controversy when she began to post inflammatory and offensive tweets through her Twitter account, forcing the corporation to shut her down just 16 hours after launching. These electronic conversations highlight advanced levels of cognitive intelligence and advanced thought, but they’re also able to lay in wait, biding their time, and remaining spontaneous while constantly assessing the next move. Swimming upstream and moving as part of an opposing force are messy scribbles of noise and worn aural messages.
The latest collaboration between Banabila & Machinefabriek is in the process of digesting something. Microscopic rhythms add to a sleek dissonance, and strange electronics masquerade as digital noise, helping to give the record a sharp intensity. Even then, soft melodies can still be found within its wreckage. Its frenetic energy, along with its inner restlessness, is largely down to the record’s timeframe. The Rotterdam residents preferred to file-swap, but from initiation to resolution, Entropia’s foetus grew rapidly in its digital womb – over an incredibly short span of a week or two. As emails were exchanged, she became more powerful, fattening with every new message; it was gaining knowledge even in its ongoing formation. The incredibly intense sounds are a result of Entropia’s brief production and digital gestation, but the music hasn’t been rushed.
Musicians working in experimental fields may be more familiar with and acclimatized to the adaptable nature of improvisation and the potential for a quicker turnaround, but nothing can prepare a musician for the music’s resulting birth and the personality it brings into the world.
‘Night Scenes’ documents and records a strange series of hauntings and happenings, but the music itself acts like a ghost box, capturing something within its trap. The voices, much like the album’s process of creation, are transferable sounds, traversing through cables and wires and covering great distances, stepping from the afterlife and into a world of impermanence. Their fifth album together seems to have a lingering feeling of unease about it, as well as an intermittent abrasiveness in its thoughts. Like great experimental music, it challenges conventional sounds and the limitations that artists place upon themselves. The fourteen-minute coda is further evidence of their telepathic bond. Although it’s a slower pace, ‘Anima’ follows a definite arc even when faced with the blind spots of spontaneity and improvisation. Those two words can scare off a lot of musicians, but they’re fertile areas of necessary growth.
Drifting Almost Falling
Eilean Rec open the new year strongly (and their final year of existence) with the fifth full length release from these prolific well-known Dutch experimentalists. Most of their collaborations have seen the light of day through Banabila’s Tapu label with the most recent being 2016’s “Macrocosms” .
It would be easy to to say this is pure electroacoustic music. The sounds contained are presumably from a variety of home-made and electronic devices that I would hazard a guess that most people would not be able to define most of their origins. By having soundscapes constructed of largely unknown sound sources it opens up the palette as their a little restrictions nor preconceived thoughts when it comes to instruments and their expected sounds and situations where they are used. The reason that it is not pure Electroacoustic is that there is a whole lot more occuring within this album than just one particular sound, or school of musical experimentation.
One of the definitions of Entropy is “lack of order or predictability” which is evident within the seven pieces contained on this album. The word is derived from the Greek word Entropia which means a turning towards or a transformation, something very much evident in the album.
Opening with “Getaway” the first thing noticeable is the open crisp clear sound. Consisting of field recordings, electronic fluttering, pulsing looping noises and drones, all together they create an almost post industrial soundscapes of eerieness, broken transmissions and decay. Sounds scatter and bounce, slow down, before rising once more, altogether creating an atmosphere were it can change at a split second and veer into completely different territory.
The beginning of “Unearth” feels completely conventional to what came before it. Verging on ambient with its coursing drones and looping keys, the track builds up with a multitude of layers, while buried within a melodic drone somewhat holds all the pieces together. Electronics splutter about leading through to a more relaxed section, but one that feels moody with its slightly darker bass tones. There is a sci – fi synth edge which brings about cinematic images of loneliness, desolation and malfunctioning equipment. With the final third of the track, the music changes completely to more experimental driven cacophony of sound, that while not having the same quality as the previous parts, feel like they are a logical conclusion of what came before. In a way the track feels like snap shots of various times and the music resembles the changes.
The title track “Entropia” starts with guitar amp distortion, field recording and slapped bass. The sound of the bass reminds me of bouncing electronic balls and the likes of Aphex Twin’s music. While the bass is going a collection of different sounds travel around it. Some are more traditional dronescapes, others percussive and noisy. Acoustic guitar finds its way towards the end which flips the feel of the track completely changing it from being an almost Warp Records like electronica piece through to one that with the acoustic guitar brings forth an introspective mood. There is distance in the sound of the guitar as sounds rush over it, giving a feeling of being a memory. Just what the final dialog is and what it translates to, will for me just remain a mystery.
“Minimals” creates a spectacle for your ears. The sounds come from everywhere circling the listener as they swirl, rise and subside. Based on loops the track feels like a living breathing organism. The name feels fitting as the elements contained within the track are minimal in nature, but the duo are able to extract more out of them by their placement, use of loops and their ability to construct a piece that changes as much as it remains the same. The piece moves from the more sonicly dense opening through to a melodic electroacoustic ambient soundscape rather effortlessly while still having enough of what is started with it in the end.
“Night Scenes” takes the listener into a territory which slowly grinds to a halt. Sounding vivid and alive a fusion of electronics and field recordings create almost claustrophobic environment. As the track moves to its next movement a selection of warped and affected field recordings adds to this claustrophobic feeling. Dialog about being surrounded alluding to spirits or possibly ghosts or aliens adds to the musical disquiet. Most definitely the most experimental of this tracks on the album, it leaves you with a feeling somewhat disconcerting.
“Nostalgia” brings back the openness that has existed for the majority of the tracks. Static soaked loops and drones are buried in the mix which gives you the feeling of memories that are fading. While the previous tracks have had the music more upfront, by pushing it back accentuates the distance in time from the event till now. The loops I feel resemble the small fragments of memory that we have and focus on, hence why they repeat, as we do repeat these small fragments of time that we hold on to.
“Anima” the album’s finale and epic at some fourteen minutes in length. It covers terrain and musical styles that integrate ambient and electroacoustic, but also give me slight feelings of modern classical. At times it feels like a lot is going on, but for the most part has a relaxed and measured feel that lets the elements exist where in when they are needed, rather than force them in. On a way the track is of two layers, the more relaxed glacial like ambience and the electroacoustic layer that can be from time to time hectic in its collision of sounds. If there is a track on the album that is the best example of the music contained, then it is this one. For me its all about balance and that occurs with “Anima”.
The first thing that stood out for me when hearing this album for the first time was the sound. This was simply downloading it and adding to itunes without headphones on. Once the album is listened to with headphones the depth of sound, clarity and the multi dimensional aspects of the music truly reveal themselves. Credit must go to masterer Marlon Wolterink, Michel Banabila and Rutger Zuydervelt for the exceptional sound contained throughout the album.
Samen met Machinefabriek is nu Entropia verschenen, het vijfde werk dat ze samen hebben gemaakt. Hoewel de beide heren vanuit Rotterdam opereren, wisselen ze graag (ouderwets) bestanden uit om ermee aan de slag te gaan. Ze fabriceren hier 7 tracks die grilliger, abstracter en dikwijls luider zijn dan voorheen, al wisselen ze dit ook af met tot de verbeelding sprekende, rustieke stukken. Nu is entropie een term uit de thermodynamica die op microscopisch niveau staat voor de wanorde in een systeem, maar op macroscopische niveau een maat is die bepaalt in hoeverre de aan een systeem toegevoerde warmte in arbeid kan worden omgezet. In feite brengen ze muzikaal gezien een mix van beide. De ruige, ongepolijste experimentele en daardoor fascinerende stukken, al dan niet met veldopnames, stem- en trompetsamples en rudimentaire sounds, maar ook de warmere verstilde muziek vol wonderlijke en steeds verrassende geluiden. De muziek sleept je daardoor eenvoudig mee, maar tevens door de energie en spontaniteit die er vanaf druipt. Het is een overrompelend luisteravontuur geworden. Als dit maatgevend is voor 2019, dan belooft het een heel mooi muziekjaar te worden.