Machinefabriek: ruim 10 jaar na Marijn

Tien jaar geleden schreef ik voor een Engelstalig blad een recensie over Machinefabrieks twee belangrijke vroege albums “Marijn” en compilatie “Weleer”, respectievelijk in 2006 en 2007 uitgebracht op het onvolprezen en helaas slechts kort bestaande label Lampse. “Marijn” sloeg, voor zover ik me dat correct herinner, redelijk goed aan in de buitenlandse pers (ik woonde toen in Engeland). Avantgarde-muziek-bijbel The Wire recenseerde het in ieder geval (wat niet vaak gebeurt met Nederlandse fare) en Boomkat was lyrisch over bijna al zijn output (dat nam allengs af, naarmate de releases maar niet afnamen). “Marijn” stond hoog in mijn eigen top-10 van 2006, wat ook niet vaak gebeurt met Nederlandse fare. Ik heb Machinefabriek, nog steeds actief natuurlijk (en da’s understatement van de eeuw), niet meer bijgehouden na de andere vroege hoogtepunten “Zwart” (in die mooie zwarte schelphoes, die discogs en zelfs zijn eigen website niet vermelden) “Slaapzucht” (Root Strata), “Ranonkel” (Burning World) en “Dauw” (Dekorder). Hieronder mijn beschrijvingen van toen van twee meesterwerken uit de Nederlandse avantmuziek. (Excusez de hyperbolen, maar het was geschreven voor een buitenlands publiek!)

Dutch again! There is not much Dutch music (apart from composers such as Willem Pijper and a couple of others, excluding the overrated Andriessen) that is worth listening to. Urban Dance Squad’s first, Mental Floss for the Globe, is—it spawned a genre that is not (remember Rage against the Machine?). But UDS was still a commercial outfit that got, at least initially, international coverage (the crew performed at the then authoritative New Music Seminar in NYC). The Ex, Lul, It Dockumer Lokaeltsje, Kleg and now Julie Mittens and Machinefabriek are among the few Dutch outsider formations that deserve as much attention.

Machinefabriek, the moniker of one Rutger Zuydervelt, is deservedly revered by purveyors and producers of drone from all over the world and his output is staggering. Marijn, his first regular cd (on Lampse), represents accomplished dramatic noise making, which shows that Zuydervelt knows how to build up tension and shape dynamics. In contrast to the capitalist atomism of pop, these numbers take the appropriate time to develop into exhilarating storms of sheer sound from the near silence from which they start out. The sonic textures of Marijn represent aesthetically the utopian vistas projected, via negativa, from the rash 9 to 5 lifestyles of those who care to listen to this music on their ipods on their way to the city office.

Dutch glory on repeat. The monotonous landscape of the Netherlands is reflected here in a transcending, invigorating distillation of the so-called drone in music, digitally created from disparate analogue materials, piano ditties stretched to the limit, smothered the while in dense thickets of crackle, hiss and reverb, often apexing at sheer noise. These at times eerie soundscapes can last up to twenty minutes and beyond; in that they take their time, Machinefabriek’s tracks might appear the very opposite of the hustle and bustle of the modern, the fast and the rash, which has no regard for the micrological details of daily life. These, however, are the matrices of the unrest, the uneasiness at the seams of today’s society.

Machinefabriek is often put under the rubric of electronic music. Untrue. Although, in that it trades in mires of analogue sound, Machinefabriek shares a certain focus with the increasingly backwards looking trend in electronica (e.g. the folktronica of Four Tet, Mountains, the cheasy retro of the Morr label), it is in fact utterly modern despite the title of the album (‘weleer’ is the Dutch term for the English ‘yore’ as in the days of yore). The drone here is unlike what one would expect, namely a monotonously repeated steady humming of the humdrum. With Machinefabriek, the drone is rigorously forward-looking, it increases in impact with every second that passes, it climaxes with joyous, unrelenting noise, and thus effectively delivers release after tension. And sometimes it’s just the mesmerising stillness of the moment, repeated continuously. Double concretisation of happiness!

Notice that this double cd compiles all 3″ cds previously released, up to 2006, by Rutger Zuydervelt himself in limited runs—and he keeps on releasing stuff, often in beautifully crafted containers (a cd in the form of a business card, anyone?), by virtue of which, if it weren’t clear already, Machinefabriek conclusively demonstrates its absolutely avantgarde modernity: capitalism can’t keep up with such benign profligacy!