Aaron Martin & Machinefabriek
2. Wings in the Grass
3. Arms Turn Slowly
4. Leaves Are Swimming
7. A Small Crowd Points
8. Close to Dark
9. Buried Cloth
10. Hide And Seek Score (digital bonus)
15 December 2017
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This has been a long way coming. It was supposed to be released by another label, more than two years ago, but due to (financial) circumstamces it kept being pushed forward. After we finally decided to look for another label, Dronarivm jumped on it quickly, so here we are.
In 2012, choreographer Iván Pérez asked me to work on a score for a dance piece of his, Hide And Seek. And to do this in collaboration with the great Aaron Martin. I don't think he knew at that point that Aaron and I had been working together previously (on Cello Drowning, an EP released on Type in 2007). Living in the US, Aaron started recording parts and sending them to Iván and me. Then I would use his recordings to build the score with; processing them, editing them, adding sounds, etcetera.
The tracks on the Seeker album are basically (the refined versions of) the first sketches we made, trying out how our sounds would blend, and what directinos and atmospheres could be used in the dance performance. After this, these tracks were morphed into one long collage, tailored to the choreography. This final score is added to the album as a digital bonus.
Here we have one of those names that I am never sure if I really know his work, and of course I don’t mean Machinefabriek. His work I know pretty well, but Aaron Martin.... scratch... think. I am sure I reviewed some of his work before, but forgot as the when and what. At the age of 17 he switched from guitar and drums to the cello and recorded various solos albums, for Preservation and River Water and Chautauqua and Experimedia (reviewed in Vital Weekly 719), along with working with people like Jeremy Young (see Vital Weekly 986) Part Timer, Dawn Smithson (as Winter’s Day), Dag Rosenqvist (as From the Mouth of the Sun), and Christoph Berg but also before with Rutger Zuydervelt, better known as Machinefabriek. ‘Seeker’ was already recorded between July 2012 and February 2013, but due to label problems it only found a home now, on Russia’s Dronarivm. This work, like much of what Zuydervelt is involved in these days, deals with dance, again by Iván Pérez (see also Vital Weekly 1101). Having worked with Martin before Zuydervelt asked Marrtin to send recordings of his playing the banjo, cello, organ, ukulele and vocals, to which Zuydervelt added electronics and editing and processing them into the forty-five minute soundtrack we now have in our hands. The whole choreographic element is something we don’t get; maybe on Youtube, so I was thinking, but then I was enjoying the music very much ‘as is’, that I didn’t want to distract from that too much. The nine pieces flow right into each other and show the best of the electronic work of Zuydervelt in combination with the acoustic work of Martin. The cello lies deep down, and provides beautiful acoustic drones, while banjo and ukulele as well as very sparse voice material provide a melodic input. Zuydervelt treats these sometimes very sparsely, and adds his own brand of carefully placed static and crackles to it, firing of in the world of loops to create more atmosphere. Sometimes very ‘experimental’, but I guess that’s only half the thing. Just as easily one could say this is occasionally orchestral, Americana or post rock (the end of ‘Wings In The Grass’; no drums though), then (again) as easily interrupted by some radio noise or sine wave. This is an excellent release, highly varied in all of these approaches, but it works out in very coherent manner. This is a very fine audio journey.
The CD album version presents the (reworked and refined versions of) the original sketches that were created in preparation for this choreography. A remarkable combination of sounds covering a wide spectre of emotions – from gritty and noisy electronics to smooth vocal arrangements and organic folky strings… and many things in-between.
Included with the CD-version (and with the digital edition, of course) is a download of a 53 minute continuous remix of these pieces. This is what became the final score for the choreography.
This continuous mix is a perfect example of the added value of a good mix: take the original tracks (which are good enough to be played on their own, make no mistake about that), put them in a different order and they will tell a completely different story. Context is everything. You’ll recognise the tracks, but still it feels as if the mix is a completely different album from the version with the separate tracks.
Seeker has waited to be released for more than two years. It was intended to be released on a different label but it was postponed for many reasons. Finally, Dronarivm came to the rescue… and we definitely should thank them for doing so.
Political risk guru Ian Bremmer made news today with his firm’s Top Risks for 2018 forecast. The president of Eurasia Group, writing with the company’s chairman Cliff Kupchan, warns us that our “global order is unravelling.”
“The scale of the world’s political challenges is daunting,” they write in an introduction up on eurasiagroup.net. “Liberal democracies have less legitimacy than at any time since World War II, and most of their structural problems don’t appear fixable. Today’s strongest leaders show little interest in civil society or common values.”
Bremmer and Kupchan continue: “In the 20 years since we started Eurasia Group, the global environment has had its ups and downs. But if we had to pick one year for a big unexpected crisis – the geopolitical equivalent of the 2008 financial meltdown – it feels like 2018.”
On that uplifting note, a new release from Aaron Martin and Rutger Zuydervelt (a.k.a. Machinefabriek) works as a kind of soundtrack for the state of things. That’s not what it’s intended to be. Seeker has quite a different back story, in fact.
The two collaborated on a score for choreographer Iván Pérez’s dance work Hide and Seek in 2012. This album features “refined versions of the first sketches we made, trying out how our sounds would blend, and what directions and atmospheres could be used in the dance performance” explains Zuydervelt in the release’s notes. The full 53-minute score is also featured.
Their inspired collaboration produced a major work. Seeker is more than a dance score. Its tension, its juxtaposition of Martin’s stirring cello performance with Zuydervelt’s masterful additions is engrossing.
If it’s true that the world will unravel in 2018, this is what it will sound like. Aaron Martin & Machinefabriek may have intended to produce a soundtrack for Hide and Seek. They’ve achieved a great deal more.
In 2007 kruizen de Amerikaanse cellist Aaron Martin (From The Mouth Of The Sun, Black Vines, The Cloisters, Winter’s Day) en Rutger Zuydervelt’s Machinefabriek (Piiptsjilling, CMKK, Cloud Ensemble, DNMF, Shivers) voor het eerst de muzikale degens op Cello Recycling, dat een vervolg krijgt met Cello Recycling / Cello Drowning uit datzelfde jaar. Een goede vijf jaar later slaan ze de handen weer ineen op Seeker, uitgebracht op het fijne Dronarivm label. De muziek is oorspronkelijk gecreëerd voor de Korzo dansproductie “Hide And Seek”. Martin (banjo, cello, orgel, ukelele, zang) en Zuydervelt (elektronica, processing, editing) laten hierop 9 tracks het licht zien, die op verfijnde wijze het midden houden tussen ambient, drones, neoklassiek, folk en experimentele muziek; het hangt er maar net van af waar ze de accenten leggen. Het lijkt ook geen bewuste keuze de ene of andere koers te varen, maar een natuurlijke steeds veranderende hybride aan stijlen, die je steeds weet te verrassen. Dat maakt dit album ook zo intrigerend en meeslepend. Echt tot de verbeelding sprekende nachtmuziek, waarbij ik me echter geen voorstelling kan maken van een bijbehorende dans. Dat betekent ook dat dit album, van bijna drie kwartier, ook zonder enige beweging overeind staat en je weet te beroeren. Voor de meer conceptuele pracht hoef je dan ook niet verder te zoeken.