1301 Machinefabriek:::: Stroomtoon II

 "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 actually the same setup that I still use nowadays, consisting of an old Phillips analogue tone generator and a selection of effects pedals.

The Stroomtoon album still feels like an accomplishment. It's layered, subtle and considered, but I wanted to see if I could try a rougher sound, to capture the exhilaration I sometimes feel when performing live. So I recorded more material, picked out the best moments, and edited them without adding too much post-production. This time I really tried to keep things pure and even a bit raucous.

When the labels Fake Jazz and Superior Standards asked me to release material on lathe cut singles, I knew this would be perfect for the music I was working on. The length limitation of a 7-inch worked nicely for these pieces, creating to-the-point, rounded off stories in barely four minutes, with no room for bullshit. Music that's in a way simple but effective, maybe even with some sort of 'pop-sensibility', if I dare say so...

After making these six Stroomtoon tracks and having them released on extremely limited lathe cuts, I realised what a shame it was that hey 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 a much better sound quality then the lathes, I decided to compile them on this cd, adding two other tracks that were released on lathe as well, my personal favorites 'Kreupelhout' and 'Toendra', and the track 'Stroop', that was made for a compilation. These extra tracks fitted perfectly with the new Stroomtoon material, and altogether, it doesn't sound like a mishmash, but delivers a coherent listening experience.

Then there's the art of Rebecca Norton. She got in contact when I was working on the material. Browsing her website, her 'the affine(s): small paintings' series immediately struck me as perfectly fitting the music I was working on. They're spiky, concentrated shapes felt like perfect visualizations of the Stroomtoon tracks. And that's when all fell into place."

1 Stroomtoon Tien
2 Stroomtoon Zeven
3 Kreupelhout
4 Stroomtoon Elf
5 Stroomtoon Negen
6 Toendra
7 Stroomtoon Acht
8 Stroomtoon Zes
9 Stroop

(Promo clip, flac)

Audio CD, 6 panels digipak
40 minutes+
Release date: May 2013
12 Euros + shipping order 

Geographically connected
1003 Roel Meelkop:::: Oude Koeien
0801 Beequeen:::: Time Waits For No One

Why Not Ltd
00017 Roel Meelkop: HARAMU/Drempel

Word(s) :
Norman Records
Machinefabriek doesn’t seem to be releasing as many things these days which is good cos you feel a little swamped sometimes when artists release so much. It’s a while since I’ve heard anything by him and I like to dabble every so often in his world of experimental sounds so let’s see what ‘Stroomtoon II’ has to offer!
This is the sequel to his pop smash ‘Stroomtoon I’. The music was constructed using recordings from improvisations with a setup that was being used for live performances consisting of an old Phillips analogue tone generator and a selection of effects pedals. The majority of the tracks on here have been released before as lathe cut 7”’s which have been and gone and are worth a mint I expect and I reckon they’ll work better as a compilation flowing into each other than they will on a bunch of lathe cut singles which you need to change every few minutes (yeah, I’m lazy).
There’s the usual barrage of strange sounds and manipulation on offer here to appease you difficult folk with variant ears. Occasionally there’s a melody-laden track (‘Kreupelhout’ for example, which is both warm sounding and evocative) but there’s a general feeling of foreboding throughout the album. The fact that it’s made with an analogue device does give the album a degree of warmth and soul you wouldn’t normally expect with this style of music which elevates it from the bulk of Mr Machinefabriek’s catalogue. As ever it’s great on headphones as the alien-like sounds creep from speaker to speaker. There’s elements of drone in there, some tonal stuff, some weird fuzz, some deep deep bass-like brown note sounds and plenty of crackles. Fun for all the family (not).
- Phil -

Ambient Exotica
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. 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.
- Björn Werkmann -

Vital Weekly
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.
- Frans De Waard -

Improv Sphere
Machinefabriek (Rutger Zuydervelt) est un artiste sonore et designer hollandais qui pratique les musiques électroniques et expérimentales depuis une dizaine d'années maintenant. Ce deuxième volume de stroomtoon fait suite à un album publié sur Nuun un an avant. Je ne l'avais pas écouté, je ne sais pas si c'étaient des enregistrements inédits, mais pour ce second volume publié par le label malaisien Herbal international, il s'agit de la réédition de neuf pièces parues initialement entre 2010 et 2012 sur des 45 tours en édition très limitée.

Cette réédition propose plusieurs pièces composées sur plusieurs années donc, et sont assez différentes malgré une ambiance que l'on retrouve au travers de chacune, ce que l'on doit à l'utilisation des mêmes outils (analogiques en majorité). Des pièces assez courtes qui vont de l'abstraction sonore ambient au drone en passant par des morceaux plus electronica à moitié pulsés, ou à moitié mélodiques. Il y a toujours une ambiance un peu sombre, fantomatique ou industrielle, caverneuse aussi et mélancolique, une atmosphère générale qui semble traverser chacune de ces compositions. Les neuf titres proposés n'ont rien de détonant je trouve, mais l'instrumentarium est très bien maîtrisé, c'est très propre, les univers sonores sont assez inventifs et personnels. En bref, neuf compositions électroniques singulières et personnelles, plutôt fraiches et très travaillées, mais qui manquent parfois d'une idée vraiment forte. Je trouve ça pas mal, mais je pense qu'il faut vraiment être fan d'ambient pour complètement savourer/apprécier (même si ça n'en est pas véritablement, beaucoup -trop- de codes propres à l'ambient sont présents).
- Julien Héraud -

Anhedonic Headphones
Stroomtoon II is a compilation of previously released tracks that were all put out on super limited edition lathe cuts. Right out of the gate, it means business—the opening track “Tien,” is filled with harsh soundscapes that recall the work of British producer The Bug (Kevin Martin) and his LP Tapping The Conversation.
Over the course of the nine tracks, almost all of them have an underlying sense of dread. The only song that relaxes a bit on that is “Kreupelhout,” which is built around static pops and warm, somewhat calming overlapped synth tones.
The overlapped, disjointed feeling appears in almost every piece, alongside Heavy droning, harsh feedback tones, white noise —thus making it easy to see Stroomtoon II as the album that will serve as the soundtrack to every bad dream you have from now on.

Monsieur Delire
Rutger Zuydervelt a donné une suite à son très bon disque Stroomtoon. Ici, une approche plus directe, qu’il dit plus près de ce qu’il fait en concert. Neuf courtes pièces à l’oscillateur et aux effets: simple, efficace, très bien construit. Il y a de quoi rendre jaloux les autres électroniciens. Toutes les pièces sauf deux étaient d’abord parus sur 45 tours gravés sur tour (“lathe cuts”).

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.
- Francois Couture -

1 comment:

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