1. Slovensko I
3. The Breaking Water
4. Floor & Radio
6. Slovensko II
cd on Cold Spring, November 2011
The follow-up of Cold Spring releases Daas and Vloed collects out of print material and a yet unreleased track. The material is skilfully mastered and sounds as crispy and massive as you could wish.
Order the album at
Bandcamp (also in digital format)
'Slovensko I & II' are best seen as a travel diary, recorded in Slovakia. RZ made 'sound snapshots' with a small digital recorder. A major influence both while recording and assembling the tracks was Chinese sound artist Yan Jun.
'Rusland' is a sound collage comprising field recordings and sections of live performances made in Russia. An incredible adventure and culture shock with long train journeys, bizarre venues and amazing people.
'The Breaking Water' can be heard as a sonic portrait of Rotterdam's famous Erasmus bridge. It includes recordings taken from both on and beneath the bridge, along with further sounds from the riverthat it crosses, the Nieuwe Maas.
'Floor & Radio' is a contrast to the outdoor pieces recordedfor the the installation 'Licthung' in Radolfzell, Germany. Contrasted against the outdoor silence was the squeaking floor in the guest house and the distorted signal and static from the radio. Sometimes there's music in everything.
Makino Takashi asked me to perform a score for his film 'In Your Star'. After a screening in Tokyo, a studio version was recorded. The result is 'Apollo', a sonic journey to space and beyond.
Machinefabriek is Rutger Zuydervelt, an eclectic Dutch sound artist who combines avant garde and minimalist classical composition with field recordings. The result is fragile but powerfully immersive sound environments that pay tribute to the world around us, natural and artificial, and inspire its re-examination. Intensely personal sound choices (and juxtapositions) render his pieces true sonic diaries, as well. This Cold Spring release, "Veldwerk", is a compilation of tracks previously released individually as short, highly limited 7" vinyls and 3" CDrs. Contrasted in sound but similar in mood and pacing, these tracks seem to naturally belong together.
The winding, collaged narratives of these tracks provide emotional descriptions of the events of Zuydervelt's life on the road. His liner notes briefly describe where and when the sound materials for each piece, and from this one begins to understand that contained in each of these 6 tracks are literally thousands of stories. Each sound recorded in the field had its context, from the snippets of broadcasted Russian dialogue which dance at the edges of hearing in "Rusland" (Zuydervelt's 17 minute ode to a tour in Russia), to the resonant, strained metallic rattle that comprises the last 3 or 4 minutes of "Slovensko II", and closes the record.
Listening to "Veldwerk", it is Machinefabriek's attitude, his approach to music making which most strikes me. His work has a perfect grasp of dynamics, and a deliberate quality which can make other music feel heavyhanded and excessive. If music making were painting, Machinefabriek would wield the finest, most exact brush. He has the rare patience to make music in which each new movement has been carefully considered, and it seems he understands that sometimes, living life means quietude, the appearance of silence or unevent, but furthermore that any perceived silence is an illusion: always, infinitely complex sounds lie just beneath the threshold of hearing. He is not afraid to allow his tracks to dissipate into emptiness.
In fact, sonic events exist largely as gestural islands on a placid sea of near-silence. Every few minutes, we get a pitch stretched piano chord, a sudden thunderous rustling, or a thick bass tone which engulfs the mix only to drop suddenly away, and then we return to soft murmers of sound, sparser field recordings complimented by hints of guitar and synthesizer, which often form a vague chordal framework that lends vital emotional coloring to each track. During these subdued moments, the listener remains keenly aware that a larger sound space is present, but feels that it has simply become dormant. I have rarely heard this effect achieved on a recording.
I admire Zuydervelt's appreciation for the every day, the mundane... Or rather, it seems he does not believe in the 'mundane': his work reveals the extraordinatry sonic possiblities of common objects, most notably in the shortest piece here, "Floor & Radio", which, as one could guess from the title, marvellously exploits some creaking boards, and captures a particularly otherworldly emission from a malfunctioning radio.
The aforementioned "Rusland", as well as "The Breaking Water" (based on recordings of a bridge and its accompanying river) are somber and resigned in feeling. "Rusland" actually builds, over 7 minutes or so, to a recognizable keyboard melody, and the effect is not unlike the apocalyptic ambience of Half Makeshift, or Godspeed You Black Emperor in their quieter moments. "The Breaking Water" is the more beautiful and listenable piece: Zuydervelt lets a single ghostly chord ring out over the soothing and constant lapping of waves.
The 22 minute "Apollo" is surely worth mentioning. With this massive track, Machinefabriek schools artists like Lustmord and Phaenon at their own space ambient game. Similar to Lustmord's "Arecibo" project, this track uses actual radio correspondance from space missions. The atmosphere is deep and perfect, and the track functions wonderfully as a narrative journey, as well. As one might expect, Zuydervelt uses more synthetic tones and reverberations here to create the cold, free-floating feel of the track.
If there's one issue I have with this compilation, it's that I would have loved to hear the counterpart track to "The Breaking Water", "The Breathing Bridge", which accompanied it on the original 3" Cdr release. This album is already 67 minutes, but at 10 minutes the track would have fit.
Conclusively, after hearing this magnificent compilation I'm surely going to delve deeper into Machinefabriek's massive catalogue. I recommend this beautiful, emotional piece of work to anyone who has even a bit of patience for deep listening music. This man is one of the true masters of 'new music', and each of these 6 compositions is not to be missed!
A lot of our lives are wasted ignoring the sounds around us. The world is filled with an incredible kaleidoscope of noise and music, and each kind has a different effect on its listener, whether it be to uplift, to excite, to agitate, to relax or to sadden. There are as many different varieties of sounds as there are tinges of emotion to attach to them, and a synthetic sound is never as rich as one organically created. The latter can make us feel fresher and more vivacious, the former more spoilt and stale.
Dutch ambient artist Machinefabriek has wholly grasped the importance of these concepts. With an impressive discography comprising scores of releases, he has come into his own once again with Veldwerk, an inspiring journey through a complexity of different lives. The album, whose title literally translates as “Fieldwork”, is almost entirely made up of field recordings layered with an ambient edge. It is a work of incredible respect and subtlety, and each constituent has its own story behind it – some of which Zuydervelt has chosen to explain to us, and others which will forever be locked in the mysteries of their own past.
Veldwerk is about sound snapshots, all of which have been recorded and stitched together by location on this record. But though taking field recordings may well be simple in theory, fusing them together to generate totally new feelings takes incredible skill. Veldwerk succeeds immensely in this way. The recordings are placed together and layered over each other with such attention to detail that the album comes across as a masterpiece of fine sonic art. Zuydervelt has taken extreme pains to brush each sound together in a respectful and minimalist fashion, with incredible attention paid to the importance and texture of each sound quality. Whether it be the rush of a driving car, the crackle of radio static or the ebb and flow of a river tide, Veldwerk shows us the vital nature of sonic perspective and that everything, in a certain context, can have an aesthetic and melodic value. We only need to change our mindset to recognise it.
Each track on the album tells a particular story, the intimate details of which are up to us to discern and to imagine as listeners. As much as I loathe individual track descriptions, doing so is extremely necessary in order to understand and appreciate the stories on this release. “Slovensko I” and “II” are ostensibly sound diaries, taken when Zuydervelt was on holiday in Slovakia. Both parts drop us in various urban locations, introducing us to new city areas and native Slovak chatterings, or anonymous industrial locations while machinery booms around us. The most beautiful thing about these tracks, as in any of the recordings as a whole, is their intimate and real nature. Every minute recorded was done so incidentally, seemingly forgotten in time but re-translated and awoken on this disk.
“Rusland” is arguably the pièce de résistance of the album. Recorded in multiple locations on a tour through Russia, Zuydervelt blends together field recordings from Moscow, St Petersberg, Nizhny Novgorod and Yaroslavl with ambient sections of live performances. This is the part of the record which has the most conventional feel to an ambient listener, revelling in its samples and building to some exquisite climaxes. There is so much to explore in this track alone: it’s a composite and brilliant piecing together of real-life events and their transition to melodic emotions. It’s an enduring and arousing 17 minute ambient experience.
“The Breaking Water” takes us all the way back to the West as Machinefabriek gives us a portrait, in sonic form, of the Erasmus bridge in Rotterdam. Those of you who have been to the city will likely agree that it holds some of the most outlandish and unconventional architecture out of many places in the Western world. I remember thinking, when I used to spend time there years ago, that it was a city designed to represent Holland’s vision of the future, but the future ended up going another way. Rotterdam therefore ends up looking stuck in some kind of mid-futuristic limbo, an architectural pariah that’s as equally wonderful as it is unusual. In this dedication to the Erasmus Bridge, Zuydervelt includes field recordings taken both on and under the construction, mixing in ambient melody with that of the traffic and the water. Each has their own sonic beauty in the land of Machinefabriek.
“Floor & Radio” is very much its namesake. Created as part of the Lichtung installation at the Gallerie Vayhinger in Germany with Sabine Burger and Steve Roden, the track was constructed entirely from indoor recordings of floor sounds and radio static, each creak of wooden boards being so close and immediate to our listening that they seem to have their own depth and viscosity, while the radio static, rather than being a spitting, ugly cacophony, has a beautiful sirenic hum to it in direct opposition to the thick sound of the flooring. If you choose to, as Zuydervelt so aptly puts it, you can see music inside of everything.
The longest track on the record is the 21 minute “Apollo” commissioned by Makino Takashi for his short film In Your Star. According to Zuydervelt, the original idea was to keep the sound of the track underplayed and minimalistic, but Makino had other ideas, pushing Zuydervelt to create something more epic and overpowering. The resultant track is a perfect mix between these two extremes, and what begins and a meditative ambient track with NASA flight journal samples and other field recordings, transcends and blooms into a masterpiece of beautiful proportions, the last section in particular being an intense display of the depth and distance of ambient sounds, and their ability to ensnare and crush us in their vortex.
Barely weeks ago I remember being somewhat put out by the lack of records which drew the listener right into their own dimensions; which were their own world with step upon step of depth and meaning to get lost in. Obviously my craving was answered since Veldwerk is one of the finest examples of such an accomplishment I’ve come across for a long time. Through pained dedication, respect and understanding of the importance of source material both in the outside world and in the mind, Zuydervelt has truly concocted a release that has its own sentience and its own definitions in complexity. The key to its success, more than anything else, if the hair-fine precision with which each sound is brushed onto the next. Not everything is mastered directly into the foreground, Machinefabriek places equal importance – and in some cases more importance – on keeping many things locked subtly into the background of the tracks. There is so much here, but yet there feels like there is always more the further we go. Veldwerk is pure adventure.
This interesting release signed by the renowned Dutch sound artist Rutget Zuydervelt aka Machinefabriek is a collection of different past recordings (even if they have been enhanced by studio remastering), mainly available on small edition vinyl or cd-r with the only exception of the previously unpublished "Floor & Radio", which stands as the nth proof of the fact he can be considered quite atypical compared to other similar artists dealing with field recordings whom someone could mistake for ghostbusters or paranormal investigators while grabbing sounds with those powerful microphones and portable recorders. His talent in turning field recordings into more immersive stimulations than normal is particularly clear in some sonic journey reports he included in this release: the combination of sonic snapshots with frequency modulations and manipulated sounds could put the listener under the impression Machinefabriek's allowing it to take possession of his exterior and interior ear so that you could feel the whirling stream of consciousness and its continuous mingling with the unfolding of scapes from windowscreen during a long journey on train in Russia in the track "Rusland", based on the mixing of field recordings and parts of live performaces made in that country, New Meuse breaking its banks and flooding over listener's consciousness in "The Breaking Water", a track based on some recordings taken from the notorious Erasmus Bridge in Rotterdam, the kaleidoscope of images and sensations as well as a certain disquieting feeling of dismay supposedly caused by the incomprehensibility of a difficult local idiom in the two halves of Slovensko, a sort of travel diary whose assembling and recording has been partially inspired by Chinese sound artist Yan Jun, a kind of astonishment in front of the contrast between the apparent immobility of a wintry environment rich of sounds close to the threshold of inaudible (the crackle of the surface of the frozen lake, the gentle blowing of the wind through the leaves of the surrounding forest) and the sense of liveliness inside a building in that environment in "Floor & Radio", a bizarre track based on the contrast between outdoor and indoor recordings in Radolfzeil (Germany), where Rutget was working with Steve Roden and video artist Sabine Burger for Gallerie Vayhinger and the obscure ascension in the deep space amidst radio transmissions, engine noises of the vessel and a sort of amplified deep humming in "Apollo", a very long entrancing live soundtrack for Makino Takashi's film "In Your Star", screened at Tokyo's Uplink Factory.