Banabila & Machinefabriek
1. Spin 'n Puke
4. Rain Painting
cd/download on Tapu Records, September 2013
CD SOLD OUT
But available digitally, here
My second collaboration album with Michel Banabila
When we finished our first album, Banabila & Machinefabriek, it felt like we were just getting started. Suprised by how fluent and natural our collaboration went, we continued working together. As speedy as ever, files and ideas were bounced back and forth and voila, our new baby is here. And we think it's awesome.
While the previous record was quite an abstract affair, Travelog is lighter, more playful and rhythmic oriented. Some moments might recall the fantastic Tape, while there's also some krautrock influences in there, as well as subtle hints of African rhythms. And of course some noisy parts 'cause, well, boys will be boys. All in all it's an album that radiates the fun we had making it.
'Travelog' comes housed in a full colour digipack, graced with photography by Michel Banabila, designed by Rutger Zuydervelt. It's released by Tapu Records, in collaboration with Lumberton Trading Company.
What a marvellous LP this is. And yes, this is Machinefabriek so we all know we are not going to be short changed, that’s for sure; but really, the sumptuousness of the music on this release is just something else. And this collaboration with sound freak and Head, Michel Banabila, just adds extra glitter to the mix. Let me tell you now, this record operates in a wildly successful manner; it’s a brilliant listen, and at times (as with Antennas and Rain Painting) radiantly beautiful; it works both as a series of intense vignettes and as widescreen soundtracks. It’s really down to how your headspace wants to interpret it.
Right from the opening clatter of Spin and Puke, Travelog is just so intense, so concentrated and so multidimensional, despite its quiet nature. Things really get it on half way through; Runner is such a tightly coiled ball of energy, one where the synths grate and strain competitively, as if to get some release. You can feel the friction as the sonic surfaces brush against the other. And Debris bowls another monstrously thick sound towards the listener; akin to the sounds of a generator that has suddenly become sentient, (or maybe sound tracking the last dying moments of a chest freezer), it’s gripping, weird, funny stuff; there’s no way the listener can break contact.
We have daftness and dementia aplenty. The title track is an unsteady, Moebius/Plank-style wobble home from some pub, (replete with a pretty refrain), Narita is a lovely reflective track counterbalanced with some funny squiggles, squeaks, growls and whooshes, whereas Dinsdag plods about in a melancholy fashion. It is a track about Tuesday after all, we get it’s going to be a bit maudlin. But it’s so good, so rich in conjuring up thoughts and feelings that you can’t help but get sucked in. So substitute my “bit maudlin” remark, that’s just too mauve. No, Dinsdag reeks of pointless melancholia; it’s akin to Marvin the depressed robot plodding about a deserted airport located somewhere in deep space. It’s been hanging about for aeons.
So, yes, I like it. This record has a quality of something special, of something indefinably GOOD about it; in fact so good I think I can get away with calling it brilliant. One thing’s for certain, I can’t get enough of it at the moment.
It took some time before Michel Banabila and Machinefabriek, both living in Rotterdam, finally met and started working together. But after the release of their first album, they soon decided there would be more like that. ?Not just because their first CD was very well received critically, but also (probably even more) because their collaboration was so fruitful that the new ideas started to roll in soon, and simply begged to be continued.??So now, some 9 months after its predecessor, "Travelog " is presented.
Both covers share the same kind of bright blue colour, but while "Banabila & Machinefabriek" presents a view UP into the sky, "Travelog " shows a view from the sky DOWN to earth.?The shadow of a plane flying over a sunny beach indicates a somewhat lighter, less abstract, approach (compared the the first album).?This is confirmed in the first track ('Spin n'Puke'), with its handclaps and playful rhythm.?Later tracks keep this playfulness, showing the two artists looking for ways to merge their different musical experiences rather than focus on what they both have in common (since they already explored that earlier).?The result is remarkable, and clearly the sum is more than the separate parts.? "Some moments might recall the mighty Tape, while others showcase motoric krautrock influences and subtle hints of African rhythms." The krautrock reference is absolutely clear in some of the samples: 'Rain Painting' has the spirit of Holger Czukay floating around, and there was a short moment when I thought I heard a flute sound like used on very early Tangerine Dream albums ("Zeit"- era). 'Yarra' and 'Dinsdag' even have some subtle references to Banabila's own older work (like 'Marilli' and 'Des Traces Retrouvees').
But do not mistake this for a 'retro-album' because it simply isn't. The interplay of both musicians, their innovative musical dialogue, pushes the boundaries into new dimensions.?Also, do not be misled by the sunny cover and 'lighter and playful' connotations: there's a lot of gritty feedback sound too. Though the overall sound may be somewhat less 'abstract' than before, this still isn't the kind of music you'll hear on any average radio station!
"Travelog" clearly radiates Michel and Rutger's enthusiasm.?This probably will not be the last collaboration we will see from them...
Peri Winkle Hear and Now
Continuing a journey begun with their self-titled release in late 2012, Travelog is the latest release from Michel Banabila & Machinefabriek. Spin’n Puke, opens the album, a rudimentary rhythm that sounds like its inspiration was heard played on a log drum, then morphs through a glitched time warp into a giddy, percussive flurry, ending as a pitch-blend glide into a sattelite blip, disappearing in space. The stage is set for a series of small sound sojourns that as a whole constitute a release that like their debut, explores a wide array of texture, rhythm and sound source. Even the covers tell a tale, a vapour trail on the debut is replaced by a planes shadow flying over a desert coast where the water meets land – this time the waters blue spilling over from the debuts sky. The type remains identical, though smaller, again suggesting a continuing journey. The music is akin to a kind of new exotica, it suggests locations, but the locations exist in a hermetically sealed transaction made between the artists swapping and melding sound-files over the web. These locations appear in Narita for example, a disembodied vocal sample from a Yuko Parris and all n4ural track is embedded in a naive melody that has the air of a polite tea party, that is until its crashed by a fuzz storm battling a Hammond. When the storm subsides, we are left in a Japanese garden and we/I realize the opening melody is none other than a folk tune played on a flute while a skittering shishi-odoshi sample charms rather than alarms – or is it, did it, was it meant to be like this? We transition through Antennas to the gauzy Rain Painting, again, fireworks sourced beats are not, crackling and whirring, some rat-tat and we find ourselves in a slurry of fugged, muted beats and keys chiming strangled, it quietly subsides. I’m gonna leave you at Yarra, its my supposition maybe Michel picked up some samples while flying through the antipodes – Yarra’s a river. This approximates a close call with Hassell - bird calls, vocal Buddesque Plateaux like loops, weird ritualistic yodels – a possible music. You do the rest, put these two musicians/composers together and you have some intriguing and quirkily engaging music – investigate, explore, enjoy.
Given their shared extensive backgrounds in sound design and atmospheric music, the former as a prolific film scorer and the latter as an electronic producer with an intimidatingly large backcatalogue, it makes perfect sense that Michel Banabila and Rutger ‘Machinefabriek’ Zuyderfelt emerged with their self-titled debut collaborative album late last year. While that aforementioned collection saw them primarily exploring abstracted soundscapes though, as its title suggests this speedy follow-up album ‘Travelog’ manages to capture far more of a feeling of motion amidst its nine stripped-down tracks, which veer from ambience and music concrete into slow-burning, almost post-rock atmospheres at points. ‘Spin N’ Puke’ certainly doesn’t suggest any of the disorientation of its title, but instead takes things off on a wander through clattering drum loops and rich, swelling synth chords that calls to mind the sense of widescreen grandeur conjured by the likes of Godspeed! or Mogwai, only for the brooding walls of harmonics to gradually fall away into burbling background electronics.
‘Narita’ meanwhile more suggests a gentle tone poem as what sound like treated horn tones play against a backdrop of gently ebbing bass chords and gauzy, hissing distortion, the occasional half-heard snatch of voice merging into the wash of sounds to become just another texture as more harsh, overdriven drones rise to the foreground near the end amidst yawning walls of guitar feedback. Elsewhere, ‘Yarra’ offers up some slightly lighter shades in the form of an ambient segue that sees layers of treated vocal harmonies bleeding into the sound of field recorded birdsong and creeping double-bass plucks, before ‘Dinsdag’ sees clunking, meandering rhythmic loops introducing a lazy motorik feel as glitchy bleeps and buzzes interject against a hypnotic backdrop of swelling drones and rolling bass harmonics, in what’s easily this album’s most krautrock-tinged moment. There’s a deeply meditative feel to much of the music here, making ‘Travelog’ one of the most cohesive yet hard to categorise headphone soundtracks I’ve heard for a while.
In Vital Weekly 860 I was very much impressed by the collaborative efforts of Michel Banabila and Rutger Zuydervelt, best known as Machinefabriek. Both from Rotterdam, and Banabila the older of the two, with a long career that took him to world music, experimental music, electronic and Machinefabriek the better known one, certainly internationally. An album of the drones of Machinefabriek and Banabila's more experimental electronics, digital noise vs silence. It's of course not really a surprise that I was looking forward to their second album, which has just arrived. Again we are in for a little surprise, I think. They seem to be moving away from the more abstract, sound collages towards more coherent… 'songs', is perhaps the word that covers this best. Especially in the first few pieces of this CD, there is a certain 'pop' like character to the pieces, a light weight character even, which sets for a sunny tone in these pieces. Also they are well rounded, with strong melodic touches. Something which we perhaps don't expect that easily from Zuydervelt, whose strong point of recognition is the more ambient, more subdued side of music. Maybe Banabila is the one whose trademark is at work here? I am just guessing of course, but this change of work is great, I think. Even when a piece like 'Debris' is more like what we found on their first collaborative CD, it doesn't become an odd ball in this forty minute collection. Gone are the shorter bits but the addition of rhythm machines here and there make all of this an excellent experimental, instrumental rock like album, at times. It's a bit of all: poppy songs, post rock, ambient and experiment. It's all part of this excellent album, which you could play over and over, and discover something new all the time.
Include Me Out
Appropriately, since I've just been out of the country, Travelog by Banabila & Machinefabriek (Michel Banabila and Rutger Zuydervelt) is getting an airing and mighty fine it sounds too. Having lived with it for a few weeks it's grown and grown, perhaps because there's something old-fashioned in the sound. I mean that in a good way. I mean, amid the electronic elements are touches of percussion and bass, along with tropical samples, and those in the wrong hands can sound like old farts trying to be modern.
It's an ever-shifting landscape, as befits the image of flight. White fluffy clouds give way to sandstorms of static and the pulse of a Los Angeles inhabited by Rick Deckard. Narita is ambient in the Eno travelogue sense, whilst Debris is a black hole of static noise which despite being edgy displays the fine touches evident throughout the album.
Just when I think I've got a sense of everything this album has to offer, new layers emerge upon listening again. That's what I mean by 'old-fashioned'. Banabila and Zuydervelt have made a piece of work with great care and in a world where frequently shallow Darkness and trendy Noise come easy, that's a good thing.
Travelog is the second collaboration of film scorer and sound artist Michel Banabila with Ambient musician as well as designer Rutger Zuydervelt aka Machinefabriek, joint-released in the middle of September 2013 on Tapu Recordings and Lumberton Trading Company. The album is available on CD, enclosed in a technicolor digipak graced by a paradisiac photograph taken from Banabila’s collection, and in a download version which can be purchased and fully streamed at Bandcamp. Both gentlemen hail from the Netherlands and are known for their saturated Drone works supercharged with raspy-raucous surfaces and eclectic patterns. Given these backgrounds, Travelog, which was recorded in June and July 2013, is an enormously laid-back work full of tropical pastel layers, sunlit beach sceneries and diffuse avenues. However, it is not a convenient picayune nicety, for there are contravening structures embedded which spice and rev up the mellifluous mirages and prevent them from becoming overly somnolent and thus hammock-friendly. Soft rhythms are sometimes attached as well, but as can be expected by the names of the producers, no straight 4/4 beat is ever dropped. Stylistically and tonality-wise, the nine tracks off Travelog synergize the Mediterranean loftiness with an earthbound Middle Eastern timbre which contains those archetypically half-pentatonic tones and oud-like textures. The most essential instrument is a surprisingly transparent guitar which is altered by certain filters, but retains its characteristic traits most of the time. Field recordings and an African breeze round off the life-affirming and glorifying but also lonely view onto the phenomena of tourism and wanderlust. These deserve a deeper inspection, especially so since travelog is one of my favorite words which probably appears one too many times in my reviews, albeit the Exotica ones. But anyway, the plane lifts off, and the first destination is already a very poignant one…
Is the opener Spin ’n Puke dedicated to all those German tourists who visit certain infamous destinations in Mallorca? This could be the case if one solely studies the track title. The attached soundscape, however, is eminently diffuse and warmhearted, as if the crazy alcohol-fueled sceneries are watched from afar and with a great understanding. The track’s anacrusis consists of anything but punchy breakbeats in front of a black backdrop, only very slowly is the figurative sunshine let in which comes in the shape of castanet-accompanied spheroidal cherubims. The complete scope of the front artwork finally appears before the inner eye when Glitch vestiges and frequency wooshes lead to the sun-dappled, seemingly guitar-accentuated base frame. The simultaneity of the Mediterranean aura and the Oriental counterparts in the shapes of sitar twangs reminds of the playful tohubohu of electronic music as created in the 90’s, where presumably alatoric and highly incompatible ingredients were meshed together in order to create a futuristic take on Exotica. Despite the uplifting vibe, Machinefabriek manages to inject electrically buzzing remnants of his albums Stroomtoon (2012) and Stroomtoon II (2013) into the beach vista which then turns into a bit-crushed partly poisonous parallax panorama. Follow-up Narita is a beatless Ambient track of the droning kind but with gently whitewashed guitar protrusions and stylophonic stardust specks akin to a slightly cacophonous oud. Once frizzling static noise runlets float through the contentment-filled valley, the duality of erbacious euphony and hedonistic harshness is again firmly in place. The song ends on an emaciated, designedly thin note.
Antennas is a track whose title suggests a plinking diorama of static noise artifacts, but in fact turns out to ameliorate these bubbling vesiculations with field recordings of frolicking children, glitchy-millennial blebs and an intertwinement of acoustic guitar scents with paradisiacal alto flute melodies. The plasticity of this fissured piece is enchanting, everything sizzles and sparkles in a rotor-like fashion. After the jocular destruction via alkaline splinters, the progressive centerpiece Rain Painting of more than seven minutes injects the first doses of melancholia. Michel Banabila’s reversely played guitar globs conflate with tenor singer-evoking wisps and thinly clinging chimes, but after approximately two minutes, the base flumes of the arrangement are revved up via earth-shattering yet soothingly strolling beats, their droning foils and ominously dusky, downwards spiraling electric guitar chords. Chirping frequencies evoke the notion of faux-birds which emanate a playfulness that is further fueled by the aeriform synth gales which waft in the distance; lofty and pristine, the conclusion of Rain Painting propitiates the listener with the comparably crepuscular middle part. Whereas Rain Painting was oddly dry despite its title, the short interlude Yarra feels much more saturated and wide as the duo of Banabila & Machinefabriek drops field recordings of real birds and unites them with spectral choirs, nocturnal creatures and pulsating guitar glints. The stereo effect of the field recording induces that certain holiday feeling and hence lives up to the depicted concept.
One of the quirkiest movies about traveling is the oddball 60’s travelog (!) called If It’s Tuesday, It Must Be Belgium, and whether Banabila & Machinefabriek’s Dinsdag is a distant homage to this flick or not, it is a strikingly dreamy and cavernous Drone track, spiced with exotic beats, screeching laser sounds and 8-bit bleeps. Its signature element, however, is the mellow legato placenta which floats through the track and hails from the distance, creating a wondrous effect of depth: the beats and spacey spirals are dry and clearly in the foreground while the mystified but euphonious luminescence shimmers through an opalescent barrier. Energetic buzzes round off the dreamscape and lead to Runner, a staccato-fied electric piano river full of translucently crystalline structures which become legato-ized later on and turn into strangely hibernal glacial creeks, very intense and frosty. Machinefabriek then finishes the layer entwinement with susurrant buzzes gyrating around the pumping blebs. While the penultimate Debris takes the nervous tension of Runner and amplifies it further by placing shedloads of AM frequency jitters, sine sinews and gunmetal prongs in a pot of acidic asbestus liquids, the eponymous Travelog is the vacation-insinuating quasi-Funk apotheosis loaded with sleazy guitar licks, loungey zitkamer organs and half-ligneous shakers. The long fade-out phase turns this sleazy critter into a shimmering but irresolute Ambient gem of colder structures before it closes both the trip and thus the album for good.
I admit to being a fan of carefully carved out liner notes and press blurbs that reveal the feeling and atmosphere of the respective work, regardless of the stylistic language they contain, whether they are prosaic, technical or witty. Hey, I'm a writer. Or something like that. In terms of truthful remarks, the liner notes of Travelog are particularly successful, for they mention that “all in all, this album clearly radiates the joy of its creative process and sees Banabila and Machinefabriek on the top of their game.” There is one important implication found in this sentence, and that is the duo’s tendency of creating some kind of an aural retrogressive vacation that returns back to the middle of the 90’s when analogue synth washes meshed with increasingly more complex beats, resulting in an amalgamation of benignly brazen concoctions one files away under the generally hated terms like IDM or Electronica. It is the tiny word joy that is so astutely omnipresent in this release, notwithstanding the tendency of all freely formed collaborations as being joyful and productive. Travelog has its fair share of melancholia and semi-threnodic undercurrents, especially so in tracks like Rain Painting or the portentously named Debris, but even these instances seem to function as minor cloudlets during a beautiful holiday. The art of vacationing is a divisive one, but I strongly believe that Michel Banabila and Rutger Zuydervelt grafted their contemplative observations onto the collection of tracks, for even in those cases where beats and bass-heavy blebs appear, they emit placidity and erudition rather than vicissitudes or hedonism. It is a strongly introverted work that will only appeal to a certain clientele of tourists: the lonely stroller who hopes to forget sorrows or nagging thoughts and gives in to the dreamy synth cascades… and the buzzing Stroomtoon vestiges. Sail ho, and have a pleasant flight!
When I saw that the opening track was called “Spin ‘n Puke,” I knew I was in for a good time.
I believe this is the third time I’ve repped Machinefabriek on the blog—the project of Netherland’s based artist Rutger Zuydervelt. Rutger holla’d at me personally very early on in the year and asked if I’d take a listen to the self-titled collaborative release between himself and like-minded artist Michel Banabila—the result, an interesting, exquisite corpse structured sound collage through the deepest regions of experimental/drone music.
Much to my surprise, I got an email a while back with information about another Machinefabriek & Banabila collaborative joint—Travelog.
The press release for Travelog indicates that it’s lighter and even “playful” in comparison to their previous effort. Once “Spin ‘n Puke” gets going—you’ll agree. The rhythmic world-influenced percussion and handclaps can hypnotize you while synth tones and various other glitches swirl in over the top of everything else.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that Travelog is more “listener friendly.” There are plenty of moments of harsh noise and ambience; it’s just that a bulk of this material leans more towards sounding like it was at least partially constructed beforehand, rather than an improvisation. The incredible urgency of a track like “Runner” is a great example of how that kind of execution succeeds.
Electronic music is the kind of field that has no boundaries—you can use technology to move people to a dope beat, or to scare the ever-loving shit out them with horrifying sounds. Travelog walks the fine line between those two extremes, and it continues to show that the collaborative partnership between Michel Banabila and Rutger Zuydervelt has no shortage of ideas.