1. Stroomtoon Tien
2. Stroomtoon Zeven
4. Stroomtoon Elf
5. Stroomtoon Negen
7. Stroomtoon Acht
8. Stroomtoon Zes
cd on Herbal International, May 2013
All tracks were previously released on 7-inch lathe cuts by Champion Version, Superior Standards and Fake Jazz, except Stroop, which appeared on 'Antibothis 4'.
Paintings by Rebecca Norton.
In December 2011 I recorded the album Stroomtoon, which was released by the French Nuun label the year after. The music was constructed using recordings from improvisations with a setup that I was trying out for upcoming live performances. It's the same setup that I still use nowadays, mainly consisting of an old Phillips analogue tone generator and a selection of effects units.
When making Stroomtoon, it felt like moving into new territory that was worth explore more. While that album is very layered, subtle and considered, I wanted to try to capture the roughness and spontaneity of my live performances. I recorded more material, picked out the best moments, and edited them without adding too much post-production.
When the labels Fake Jazz and Superior Standards asked me to release material on a few lathe cut singles, I knew this would be perfect for the music I was working on. simple, to the point vignettes with the ideal playing time for the 7-inch format.
After making six Stroomtoon tracks and having them released on three extremely limited lathe cuts, I realized what a shame it was that they were so limited and that they weren't gathered on one medium, like the first Stroomtoon album.
With the extra value of having them in better sound quality then the lathes, I decided to compile them on this DISC, adding two other tracks that were previously released on lathe as well, my personal favorites Kreupelhout and Toendra. Stroop appeared on the compilation Antibothis 4. These extra tracks fit nicely with the other material on this CD.
Then there's the art of Rebecca Norton that's gracing this cd sleeve. Rebecca got in contact when I was working on the music. Browsing her website, I was immediatly grabbed by her 'The Affine(s): Small Paintings' series. Their spikey, concentrated shapes struck me as perfect visualizations of the Stroomtoon II II material. That's when all fell into place.
If you were once a devoted follower of the now-dormant Foxy Digitalis site, and have since become a member of the cult that is Decoder, you’re probably familiar with the music of Rotterdam-based electronic sound sculptor Rutger Zuydervelt, also known as Machinefabriek. This cat’s been flinging out shards of electronic shrapnel for nigh on a decade, and has collaborated with the likes of Peter Broderick (ex-Efterklang), clarinettist Gareth Davis, Mariska Baars (Soccer Committee), and Will Long’s solo version of Celer. To say that Zuydervelt is a drone maestro is an overwhelming understatement, as he has proven time and again with his vast catalogue of recordings, installations and soundtracks.
In 2012, the first edition of Stroomtoon was released on Nuun Records, an album-length exploration into the sound of electric current. It was a dark affair, steeped in glitch. After the album’s release, in an effort to focus more on the spontaneity of his live performances, Zuydervelt produced a series of 7-inch lathes, with tracks that were quickly recorded and edited with a minimum of post-production. Not content with the fact that these tracks – of which he was quite proud – were scattered across a handful of releases, the producer decided to collect them and issue Stroomtoon II on the Herbal International imprint. The nine pieces collected here share a common sonic theme: quietude. Sounds appear and then evaporate, drones rumble along and then drop out of existence, replaced by delicate sheets of static. Tiny sparks pop quietly in random patterns. It’s amazing how Zuydervelt maintains a focused motive throughout these disparate movements, almost as if he dreamed these tracks simultaneously in a somnolent near-trance, precognitive of their future agglomeration. It’s this extended state of calm that makes Stroomtoon II an engaging listen from start to finish. You too can zone out with Machinefabriek below. Stroomtoon II is available directly from Zuydervelt’s Bandcamp.
Dutch artist Machinefabriek has covered a vast sonic territory across countless releases for labels such as Champion Version, Important Records, Cold Spring, and Keshhhhhh, not to mention his collaborative ventures with the likes of Stephen Vitiello, Celer, the Kleefstras, Gareth Davies, and Steve Roden. However, last year’s album “Stroomtoon” saw him pare things down and focus on a deliberately restrained selection of sound sources chosen with live performance in mind, based around an old Phillips analogue tone generator and a handful of effects units. “Stroomtoon II” continues with the same setup, providing a consistent sonic character across the whole album while leaving plenty of room for variation.
Imagine looking out to sea on a clear day. A shape tracks across the edge of the horizon, sometimes coalescing into the clear image of a ship, at others vanishing in a shimmer of haze. Elsewhere a dot appears, blossoming quickly into a ferry heading straight for shore. “Stroomtoon II” has tracks that hover on the threshold of harmonic and rhythmic clarity, gathering themselves into clearly defined form before dissipating like steam into rumble and whirr; it also has tracks that start off far and loom in closer and closer, pressing themselves against the senses with increasing weight. Whatever the strategy, each piece develops organically, like a sheet of paper turning fold by fold now into a crane, now into some amorphous shape, now into a boat. The tone generator offers a surprising variety of timbres, from ragged and rasping to delicate and chime-like, while retaining a distinctive warm hum that sonifies the flow of electrons coursing through its circuits. Putting aside the eclectic mix of sound sources often found on other Machinefabriek releases allows considerations of form and harmony to come to the fore, but there are still plenty of individual sounds here that I could listen to for hours without getting bored.
“Stroomtoon II” feels like a cohesive and coherent album in the traditional sense, covering a full range of moods from the eerily atmospheric “Kreupelhout” to the calm and pastoral “Toendra”, and from the weirdly wonderful “Stroomtoon Zes” to the dark and brooding “Stroomtoon Negen”. Machinefabriek continues to hone his sound into a more refined and ‘musical’ shape, developing his mastery of form and structure while retaining the penchant for striking, beautiful and often humourously deadpan tonal juxtapositions that makes his earlier works so enduringly appealing. The sleeve of the CD version released by Herbal International also features some very nice origami-like paintings by US artist Rebecca Norton. This is another top-quality release from Machinefabriek, and well worth checking out for long-time devotees and new listeners alike.
Rutger Zuydervelt has produced a follow-up to his very good record Stroomtoon. This time, he has used a more direct approach, more in tune with what he does live (according to his liner notes). Nine short pieces made with a tone generator and effects: simple, efficient, very well constructed. Good enough to make other electronic artists jealous. All tracks had been previously released on ultra-limited lathe cuts.
Stroomtoon II is the second installment of Rotterdam-based designer and sound artist Rutger Zuydervelt aka Machinefabriek’s electricity-related otherworldly spaces, released in May 2013 on the Herbal International label and available to purchase and listen to in full at Bandcamp. The first Stroomtoon (2012) featured five harsh and glitchy tracks where only a magnifying glass could sharpen and uncover the hidden beauty in the gnarled frequency gallimaufry. Stroomtoon II, on the other hand, was never meant to exist as an album and is hence pieced together by three rare seven-inch works previously released on three different labels. These obscure cloak-and-dagger release tactics caused Zuydervelt to rethink this approach and make all of the tunes available on one single album for a much broader public to enjoy. Since Stroomtoon II is an accidental album, so to speak, is it torn between different states or even torn apart by the maelstroms of electric current? No, not at all. In fact, Stroomtoon II adds a new mood to the table that seems de trop, but ultimately fitting: gentleness. Instead of harsh, bone-destructing sonic sine waves, Machinefabriek decides to lessen their forceful impetus in each of the nine tracks, making room for multilayered drone structures, fragile clicks and cuts and genuinely embracing melodies. These synth structures are not catchy per se, but their surfaces and auras are poignantly benign. That said, Stroomtoon II is not exactly an album that lays wide open in front of the listener. Complexity and eclecticism go hand in hand, but since the tempo is usually downbeat, the panorama less furious and hefty rather than laden with protuberances which reside in a rather controlled system, this work feels almost aeriform. It is best enjoyed at home with a good pair of speakers due to the abyssal bass frequencies and the omnipresent plasticity. Read more about an addendum which crosses the path to ethereality while still containing all the electrifying characteristics of the original epitome.
Scrapping the numeral sequence of the tracks in order to create a story (or frequency) arc that is better suited in the given album format, Machinefabriek launches Stroomtoon II with Stroomtoon Tien, and the reason for this very track to be the initial gateway is comparably easy to carve out. Low sonic frequencies in the 30-40hz range slowly rise as the song progresses, highly dependent on the listener’s hi-fi equipment. This belly-massaging elemental force is accentuated by siren-like circular saw coils and a staccato shrapnel of dry pulses. These additions make sure that the listener hears at least something while listening with less optimal headphones on the go. Stroomtoon Tien is quite austere and unembellished, only reaching a more aggressive state in the second half with a cornucopia of electric current, foggy background drones and an increasingly tense oscillation overall. Stroomtoon Zeven draws from a similar array of tonalities, but appears more bubbling and swift-moving. Faux ship horns, acidic frizzles and blue-tinted pulsars in front of a black background remind of Zuydervelt’s collaboration with Jaap Blonk and their hodgepodge of spoiled dishes called Deep Fried (2012). In addition, spectral apparitions and Dark Ambient-oid whispers twirl within the boundaries, only to be regularly perturbed by zappy electric shocks of the clarion kind. Bit-crushed computer sirens lead out of the glitchy wasteland and let Kreupelhout take over the reign, a kind of underbrush and chaparral of low-slung plants. Natural verdure and harsh electricity, do they go together? They do indeed, as Kreupelhout is an unexpectedly melodious and mystical track with thin synth washes of relaxation and nostalgia. Everything seems pristine, only the reappearance of the stunning sough in the first half adds a kind of energy in adjacency to the ever-present diffuse blebs and clicks. Without any mean-spirited splinter in sight, Kreupelhout is the interim oasis of yore, drowned in melancholia, but flourishing.
Machinefabriek seemingly neglects the paradisal intermission and moves on to Stroomtoon Elf, a crooked abode weathering a nefarious storm. The miasmatic neon-lit screeches and gales are in place right from the get-go, their rising brazen three-note scheme is intertwined with electric glitters and an enigmatic drone structure in the second half which covers the blackness of the background only to present a new kind of shadiness thanks to its galactic reciprocation. Despite the crestfallen elements, Stroomtoon Elf is, I believe, designedly accessible, no matter how bad the aftertaste of this assertion may be. It feels stormy alright, but never overmasters the listening subject. This is more of an alkaline liquid than an acidic test tube. The same can be said about Stroomtoon Negen. There is indeed a reason Rutger Zuydervelt places these tracks in this fashion, as the sub-theme of mellowness continues with the album's first proper Drone track. Of course this kind of mellow prospect is still a polyfaceted one, draped in arcaneness, but nevertheless weirdly soothing. Swelling storms of electricity float in a riverbed of bass streams and related vesicles, and while there are no graspable melodies, the sound layers clearly morph and coalesce, fathom out the nuances and shades in-between their apexes and cusps. The accompanying sizzles and buzzes are lightweight and figuratively lofty, allowing the drone layers to unfold and fluctuate without floating around obstacles or barriers. The quasi-snugly string of Kreupelhoet, Stroomtoon Elf and Stroomtoon Negen is completed with the self-explanatorily titled Toendra. Residing between the realms of electricity, Tetsu Inoue’s whitewashed worlds and Thomas Köner’s glacial gloom, Toendra is delicately fragile and draws from a lot of interplays. The formerly energetic pops turn to icy crackles (or crackling icicles?), hints of reverberation paint an infinitesimal wideness, short gusts resemble the blurred sound of snorting, and blimey, the whole atmosphere is anything but dulcet. Avoiding a blazing brightness, Toendra’s twilight state still gleams as much as it relies on murkiness. And so ends a mellow hybrid phase of four Glitch-Drone critters in a row.
Stroomtoon Acht breaks the maudlin lachrymosity with a blizzard-esque exhalation captured in huge reverberation capsules that widen the depth of field decidedly, lessening the dryness in favor of a moist-vaulted cavity. Threnodic lamentos of specters echo in the distance, the atmosphere is almost New Age-like, Stroomtoon Acht is dead-serious about its physiognomy and unveils this tendency after roundabout 90 seconds when crystalline shards rupture and unleash aqueous globs of bile. The atmosphere is still comparatively laid-back, but the reason I do not count this track to the preceding Ambient gang of four is found in the hectic frenzy and rash disturbances, a curious remark given the otherwise splendidly transcendental, concealed dreamscape. Stroomtoon Acht might well be the most dichotomous track: focused yet stumbling, mild yet aggressive, echoey yet jejune. These constant conflicts ennoble its complexion. Stroomtoon Zes takes this incalculability one step further and reintroduces the listener to an almighty power that has only been featured in the opener, but was since then decidedly reduced and silkened: deep frequencies. They stomp and bubble hazily below the chiming sine tones and the incisive iridescence. Resembling the quirky scabbing of insects, the soundscape is hued in stereo-panned crackles, metallic dark matter pads and supercilious hisses. The finale is called Stroop and presents itself in the limelight with abysmally low bass drones and slowly oscillating 80’s synth effects that are prolonged for the whole runtime of over five minutes. A Shoegaze composition which unleashes power drones and big doses of oomph, Stroop is not in the slightest bit camouflaged, does not appear in a dualistic way. It is a simple-minded – but not simplistic – source of evil, adamantly dark, mercilessly rough and omnipotent. Its super-perspicuous existence ends with a downwards cascading buzzing whistle. No afterglow, no sustain or polymorph finish, Stroop ends all of a sudden.
Stroomtoon II confronts the listener with its own harsh reality that is obviously hyper-related to its next of kin and predecessor Stroomtoon, but the hypothetical question of whether Machinefabriek really had to come back to the formula of unleashing high energy volts, vaults and waltzs can safely be answered with a loud “yes!” Although there is no long centerpiece on this album as has been the case with Stroomtoon Eén, the patchwork origins of the material are perfectly masked. If I did not know about the limited releases gathered on this album, I would have sensed them nonetheless due to the progressive arcs and stylistically grouped units, but had drawn the wrong conclusion. Stroomtoon II is indeed soothing and silky to the trained ear of Glitch-perturbed Drone washes and lightens up over its course, although this could well be a psychoacoustic effect. After millions of – thankfully allegorical – volts blasted through the body, the listener is in a trancelike state, possibly even hypnotized to a minor degree. This work offers a wonderful collection of vignettes which still feels like a dedicated album, and this is a great achievement. Whether the tracks become lass baneful or the listener adjusts to the layers is not easy to answer, but regardless of the perceived temperature and turbulence of a respective track, Stroomtoon II feels cohesive and varied. Even the tracks that lack the term Stroom in their title can be smoothly linked to the energetic leitmotif. Favorites of mine are the aforementioned quartet of Kreupelhout, Stroomtoon Elf, Stroomtoon Negen and the momentary closer of that string of tracks, Toendra. Delicately glacial, with crunchy cracks and celestial crackles, melodies and affability, these tracks neglect the raucous rawness of the topic and weave it into a transcendental helix. Even if Roman numerals leave a stale aftertaste in music-related works, Machinefabriek’s Stroomtoon II is definitely devoid of such trains of thoughts. Recommended even to those listeners who were put off by the elemental steeliness of the first Stroomtoon artifact.
Late 2011 Rutger Zuydervelt recorded his album ‘Stroomtoon’, partly as a way to test his new live set up of an old Philips analogue tone generator and effect units. ‘Stroomtoon’ was a series of improvisations and released about a year ago (see Vital Weekly 838). He still uses that set-up and in the slipstream of his album, he also recorded a bunch of pieces which found their way on three lathe cut 7″ records for such labels as Fake Jazz, Superior Standards and Champion Version. But you know, lathe doesn’t equal high quality but it does equal very limited, so these pieces are now collected on this CD, along with two more pieces from another lathe cut and a compilation track. The dedicated fan has of course all of these, but the average fan now can hear them too. These nine pieces are all considerably short, somewhere between four and five-some minutes, which works quite well for what Machinefabriek wants. He wants to explore a few sounds, while being locked inside a system of sound effects, and create a small number of variations with these manipulations. The objective is as always to create abstract, atmospheric music, which is something Machinefabriek happens to be very good at. Occasionally there is an over-use of reverb, such as in ‘Toendra’, which is then relies too heavily on the use of it and becomes a gimmick, but in the majority of the other pieces it works quite well. ‘Stroomtoon II’ is an excellent companion to the ‘Stroomtoon’ album, and it’s fine to see this updated version compared to the lathe cut versions. If you were looking for something radically new, then you won’t find it here.
De crisis heeft gelukkig geen grip op de creativiteit van Rutger Zuydervelt, die met zijn Machinefabriek nog altijd op volle stoom doorgaat. Gelukkig maar, want deze import Rotterdammer zorgt met zijn muziek altijd weer voor de broodnodige muzikale afleiding en tevens variatie op het hedendaagse aanbod. Hoewel zijn discografie ver boven de 100 releases uittorent, maakt een nieuwe release van zijn hand telkens weer nieuwsgierig. Begin 2012 krijg ik zijn cd Stroomtoon voor het eerst te horen. Deze verschijnt in de “Climax” serie van het Franse label Nuun. In 5 tracks, simpelweg “Eén”, “Twee”, “Drie”, “Vier” en “Vijf” geheten, brengt hij 36 minuten vol elektronische klanken. De muziek is al improviserend ontstaan terwijl hij voor een live optreden aan het oefenen is. De sounds komen van analoge apparatuur en enkele loop-pedalen. Het is voor een deel white noise van de apparatuur, waarmee hij fijnkorrelige laagjes muziek over elkaar heen legt. Dit zorgt voor een behoorlijk diepgang en levert zowel sfeervolle als heel duistere muziek op. Machinefabriek brengt de geluiden weliswaar redelijk rauw, maar weet er toch een warm, ritmisch, harmonieus en bovenal tot de verbeelding sprekend geheel van te creëren. Uiterst genietbare geluidsstromen.
Hij heeft erna de smaak te pakken en geeft op de labels Superior Standards het vervolg Stroomtoon Vervolg (met Stroomtoon zes & zeven) op 10” uit. Hierna volgt eind 2012 op Fake Jazz de dubbele 7” Stroomtoon Acht/Negen + Tien/Elf. Deze doen qua kwaliteit totaal niet onder voor de eerder genoemde cd, integendeel zelfs. Hij weet wederom met diverse drones, kraakjes, piepjes en pulserende ritmes een consistent gelaagd geheel te kneden dat weet te biologeren en betoveren. Gelukkig, voor mij en vele anderen, besluit hij om dit alles te bundelen op Stroomtoon II. Naast de zes, voor zijn doen korte nummers, vind je er de nummers “Kreupelhout” en “Toendra” van de 7” Toendra / Kreupelhout die in 2010 op Champion Version is uitgebracht. Aan het eind smeert hij er ook nog het geweldige nummer “Stroop” bij, dat eerder op de fantastische compilatie Antibothis 4 (2013, Thisco) is verschenen. Deze 3 nummers zijn wat concreter dan de rest, maar passen er qua sfeer en geluid toch helemaal tussen. De cd is voorzien van de prachtig minimalistisch, maar veelzeggende schilderkunsten van Rebecca Norton. Ja en dan heb je gewoon weer een nieuw kunstwerk van onze held in handen van bijna 41 minuten met 9 ijzersterke tracks en een prachtige hoes. Kunst tonen in alle opzichten!