Banabila & Machinefabriek
9. Echo Chamber
cd/download on Tapu Records, September 2016
Stream and/or buy at Bandcamp
or send an with your order
Check out this video for the track Kaleidoscope
'Macrocosms' is the fourth collaboration album by Banabila & Machinefabriek. Again, Michel Banabila and Rutger Zuydervelt spent a few concentrated weeks swapping sound files and sculpting ideas to fully form tracks. This intuitive way of working and open-minded approach resulted in an album that harks back to the rhythmic playfulness of 'Travelog', while also maintaining the abstract tendencies of 'Error Log'.
The overall theme deals with the macro and micro - how incredibly tiny and insiginificant we become when zooming out, and how wondrous small worlds can be found within ours when zooming in. Artist Sarah Payton describes it beautifully in her spoken word section of the title track.
Field recordings made by Banabila at the nature reserve Bia?a Woda in Poland are an important addition to the music, reinforcing the sense of place, and invoking intricate, detailed worlds of their own. Combining elements of ambient, musique concrète, noise, and even the 'fourth world', this Rotterdam duo created a unique sonic world expanding their oeuvre with another fine album.
Macrocosms is the fourth time that Michel Banabila and Zuydervelt - both based in Rotterdam - have swapped files and sculpted pieces together. There’s a certain creative tension between the recognisable and the unrecognisable, with computer generated sounds, guitars, keyboards and field recordings from a visit to a Polish woodland, all subject to processing. Some of these nine pieces have song-like structures and range from near still lifes to rhythm-based compositions.
Awake is a brisk, intricate mix of pulses with glitchy tics so that the one keeps shifting, which is further turned around when a simple vibraphone and synth melody arrives. On the title track artist Sarah Payton intones: “Inside the single world we thing we see are a hundred thousand seperate worlds”. Simple, bold keyboard arpeggios run through the track and her voice is finally subsumed into a cloud of tiny sound particles that spiral off into fractal like shapes, making it an appropiate analogy to the different levels of detail in the duo’s music.
A Closer Listen
To date we have heard four full-length collaborations between Michel Banabila and Machinefabriek, each one different in tone. This one, while intricate and multi-faceted, is their most accessible to date.
It all starts with a concept: the micro and the macro. Listening to the album is the aural version of zooming in and out with a hi-tech camera. Pieces of sound appear, migrate to different speakers, and dissipate. Zoom in and one can hear them better; zoom out and one can appreciate the overall picture. The cover art implies a scientist’s eye, so it’s no surprise that the music includes field recordings, made by Banabila in Poland’s Bia?a Woda (a reminder to check out Izabela D?u?yk’s Soundscapes of Summer, also recorded in Polish woods). The brightness of the album’s visual tones reflect that of the music, which at times can be downright danceable (“Stokjes”) ~ and when’s the last time one danced to field recordings? It doesn’t happen often. This joyful combination is what makes the album so accessible. One can imagine the artists opening each other’s sound files, getting excited about their next ideas, and committing them to tape.
Crickets, choirs and children each find their places in “Upwards”, serving as both rhythm and adornment. The world itself is rhythmic, often intentionally but sometimes not; Banabila and Machinefabriek find hidden swayings and surround them with aural sculptures. Even when the track turns ambient, the listener recalls the tempo that launched the piece. But the title track is where everything comes into play. On this piece, Sarah Payton surprises with a spoken word segment that seems at first like a documentary excerpt, perfect for the nature (pun intended) of the release. Arriving at the album’s midpoint, the voice is unexpected, yet comforting. Inside the single world we think we see, a hundred thousand separate worlds go about their daily business, connected only by the thinnest of threads, a contingency of each only vaguely perceived by the others. Following the narrative, one zooms out even further, above the earth, recalling the photographic work of Yann Arthus-Bertrand. Piano, strings, static and samples provide an elegant backdrop against which Payton herself first approaches, then recedes, a metaphor for her own words.
Some collaborations seem like work, but this one seems like play. It’s clear that the artists enjoy what they are doing and are inspired by this partnership. While we often write that we’d love to hear more of the same sounds, the duo has proven that they can change sounds and continue to entice. We already trust that their fifth album will intrigue in equal measure, no matter what its style.
This is already the fourth time that Rotterdam based composers Michel Banabila and Rutger Zuydervelt, also known as Machinefabriek get together to record music, and do a release. First there was the self-titled release (see Vital Weekly 860), 'Travelog' (see Vital Weekly 898) and, thirdly 'Error Log' (see Vital Weekly 984). That is perhaps already a most remarkable fact, seeing these two men being very active when it comes to playing and composing music, also for occasions we don't hear or see because they are not always released as such, music for films, installations, theatre, and dance. For the fourth time these two men manage to surprise the listener again; 'Macrocosmos' is not a rehash for the earlier albums, I think. The first was abstract, the second more melodic, and the third was more about ambient music, through the use of longer pieces. On the fourth album they explore the best of these three worlds and expands on that, with a relatively bigger role for real instruments, or so it seems. This is their most all round album so far, I'd say. The guitar plays quite a big role in some of these pieces, along with the crackling of the modular synth, but in 'Stokjes', 'Awake' and 'Turmoil' they as easily slip into a rhythmic piece, the latter with an almost Alva Noto like but with a slightly more exotic mood. Melodies are never far away in these pieces, and 'Awake' is a like true pop song, with an electro melody below. Then there are pieces in which the ambient side is more present, such as in 'Prey', 'Upwards' or the title piece. Here the influence of Zuydervelt seems to be more apparent, even when these duties are no doubt not divided like this; this is just something I was thinking of. It seems that field recordings, mainly insects, birds and rain, play a role in the majority of these pieces, which further enhances a somewhat 'tropical' feel to the music. That too might be something I am just imagining of course. It makes that this album has a very diverse feeling to it, in terms of textures they choose, of changing moods, instruments to use and make it a fine ride for the listener, going through various places; like a road trip through the macrocosmos. An excellent release by these masters of their trade.
Their fourth collaborative album shows Michel Banabila and Machinefabriek in a playful mood, somewhat less abstract than on their previous album Error Log.
Macrocosms radiates the joy of swapping sound files and surprising each other in turn with an unexpected twist of the material: field recordings from the Biala Woda nature reserve in Poland, musique concrête, noise, ambient, ‘fourth world’ samples, ‘Holger Czukay style’ sped up guitars, and whatnot…
“The overall theme deals with the macro and micro – how incredibly tiny and insiginificant we become when zooming out, and how wondrous small worlds can be found within ours when zooming in.”
Michel and Rutger are a perfect pair: two giants of Dutch experimental music, combining the best of many worlds. Abstract experimentalism, cinematic romanticism, impressionistic environmentalism… it’s all in the details that merge into a recognisable trademark style and manages to surprise with every new release.
Periwinkle Hear and Now
I know, it's not brand spankers, however, outing number four for Banabila & Machinefabriek - and it just keeps on getting better. Between them these two guys have such a plethora of musicality behind them that I feel the fourteenth release between them will still keep one intrigued and captivated. I got ruminating that this is their most exotica sounding release, that is, in a fourth world sense. Insect noise, digital clicks, bird song, synth keyed crystalline tones, ambient washes surge both subtlely and forcefully. Narration and radio transmission snatches, the microworld of human observation/language, appear and dissipate - subsumed by music and sound. There's a percussive thread throughout Macrocosms too, sampled and played through Rutger and Michels careful library of listening (check Turmoil, Echo Chamber), as too with all other sounds and music on this release. Also amongst these sources are sounds recorded at the Bia?a Woda nature reserve in Poland by Michel - here within a regional macrocosm are also the minutae of life - hidden worlds revealed. As with previous releases between them, the recording process was through file swapping. I wonder if through this, both Michel and Rutger's voices can sound more truly themselves; sounding more of a collaboration than a compromise. Or am I missing something there?!
I got to first listen to this at cruising altitude above the ocean somewhere between Australia and Japan - between cultures. Apt. And detail, it unfolds continuously.
I hear-look at paradise from afar, subsumed inside a dystopian threat - within a dream. This sense appears first in Kaleidoscope with its gamelan isolate and chinking buzz exotica, it closes with a dislocated kind of cooing, gorgeous. Then, as if looking down from a space station (or is it from a submerged city) with piped nostalgia choruses fed through a PA, so too does Upwards hint of this dread. There is still beauty within the waste however, koto strike, anthromusicological ephemera from a forest through the throats and tongue of men. Majesty broods, swells and surrenders in ambient free-float. Prey too sounds a forboding - slow drone hum builds and dissipates as gong miscellany fleck the sound-field. E-bow like sounds are sirens. Squirl and hum on close. So much detail!
Cricket clicks & chirps, electric flutter and a lock groove sishi-odoshi suggest we're headed to the mad-house in Awake - before the forest beckons towards a calming glockenspiel melody and key tones. The flutter at closing is more avian - less electro-claustrophobic. Is that digitally altered tingsha in Turmoil? Tin water can strike foils, morse enters/leaves, a 1:22 clash heads into a sound fray and bird-song sonar returning to the songs beginning to end. All is not what it seems and excels on realisation.
There's more to hear and immerse oneself within, whether canned or from the speaker, it rewards. Music from innumerable continents and imaginal realms - a post cultural melting pot of musical memory and remembering.
Post apocalypse exotica - damning the romantics with the reality of mankinds decline.
Stadgenoten Michel Banabila en Rutger Zuydervelt/Machinefabriek presenteren met Macrocosms hun vierde samenwerking en er is weer helemaal niets mis mee. Het concept voor de uitgave is, aldus de Rotterdammers, het leven in micro en macro; de trivialiteit van ons leven wanneer we afstand nemen, de wonderlijkheid als we het leven in zijn details beschouwen. Het is moeilijk te zeggen of dat concept hoorbaar in muziek is vertaald, maar de luisteraar kan wel concluderen dat het album bijzonder gevarieerd en gedetailleerd is. Macrocosms bestaat uit negen composities die aaneen zijn gemixt, zodat het album als een lange, zij het afwisselende reis, kan worden beluisterd. Abstractie en herkenbaarheid, geluidssculpturen en ritmes met een Oosterse en Afrikaanse sfeer wisselen elkaar af en vloeien in elkaar over. Banabila en Zuydervelt gebruiken akoestische instrumenten, elektronica en field recordings, die al dan niet bewerkt ineen zijn gevlochten. De veldopnamen zet het tweetal in voor een sfeervol accent, maar ook als muzikale bouwstenen – voor ritmes en patronen. In Turmoil bijvoorbeeld klinken dierenkreten in een repeterend patroon zonder geforceerd over te komen naast een kalm en strak percussief ritme, een melodie uit een keyboard en een vervormde gitaar. Hier en daar volstaat een enkel accent in de verfijnde texturen, zoals een losse streek over een snaar, tussen de drones, ritmische krekel-samples et cetera van Upwards. In het titelnummer heeft het duo een tekst van Sarah Payton verwerkt, die het thema van het album illustreert. Het is beslist knap hoe Banabila en Zuydervelt een veelheid aan geluiden, effecten en bewerkingen zo organisch tot bijna verhalende composities hebben geweven. En zoals goede verhalen kun je Macrocosms keer op keer beluisteren en details nieuw ontdekken of er opnieuw van genieten.