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Machinefabriek "Stillness II"

Reviews

When we talk about movie sequels, the consensus is that few are as good as the original. Here’s one that is: Esther Kokmeijer’s Stillness – Brash Ice, Pack Ice, Growlers, Bergy Bits and Icebergs. This stunning film is a marvel of cinematography, and makes a silent witness on climate change ~ silent, that is, save for the gentle drama of Machinefabriek‘s score. These two artists teamed up for the first installment as well, and the release on the Glacial Movements label is ideal. Perhaps an equally fitting title for the project would be Slowness. Neither music nor image are still; each possesses a subtle, inexorable forward motion. The principle applies not only to the determined cutter ship of “#1 – Lemaire Channel, Antarctica 2014” but to the acceleration of climate change. As the ship plows a path through snow and ice, it unleashes surprising splashes of azure and rust. Finally it breaks through to open water. It’s tempting to view this opening segment as a parable of hope, although it lends itself equally to the opposite reading. In contrast, the word stillness speaks of a feeling, an impression when faced with the great expanse of blue and white: the great majesty of the Antarctic, so important to our future yet so often unseen. And although neither artist suggests this reading, stillness may also be seen as the human reaction to glacial melt; few contemporary issues have been the subject of so many words and so little meaningful action.One is able to push such thoughts away while enjoying the music and the visuals. Machinefabriek introduces the project with low, slow drones and hydrophonic bubbles, signifying weight, volume and mass. The sense of scale is enormous. Swirling tones, like an awakening orchestra, surge forth at the end of the opening track, as if rallying behind a cause. Midway through the second movement, a larger bubble seems to break the surface from the abyss, along with a suggestion of tonal wobble which one may interpret as the distortion of a crucial message. But with sudden clarity, the sound of running water leaps to the foreground, like truth slicing through a lie.A cold wind blows through the middle piece, a reminder of the harshness of conditions at either pole. Meanwhile, Kokmeijer reminds us of other phenomena as well: the fact that there are waves in the region (we tend to think of everything as frozen), and the similarity of snowy landscapes to billowing clouds. The teaming of sight and sound seems so instinctive that one feels a great unity of design. She calls the landscape “vulnerable and resilient,” a curious dichotomy, but one in which we participate. Together, Kokmeijer and Zuydervelt remind us of an under-publicized angle: that the natural world is itself great art. And no cohesive argument can be made for its destruction. (Richard Allen)A CLOSER LISTEN
Rutger Zuydervelt, ovvero Machinefabriek, firma le copertine di tutte le uscite Glacial Movements ed è l’autore di una prima raccolta di Stilness Soundtracks uscita nel 2014 sempre per l’etichetta di Alessandro Tedeschi aka Netherworld. Anche questo secondo volume raccoglie composizioni pensate come colonna sonora per i video di Esther Kokmeijer, che raccontano il suo viaggio fantastico in Antartide. In questo secondo volume, si legge nella nota stampa, «il focus è maggiormente su quello che è possibile vedere all’interno della cornice – un tentativo di catturare la solennità delle immagini – per cercare la bellezza, ma anche la tristezza nella qualità mesmerica dei film di Esther».SENTIRE ASCOLTARE
In 2014, Dutch composer/producer Rutger Zuydervelt aka Machinefabriek released Stillness Soundtracks on ambient label Glacial Movements. His drones, sound recordings and slow rhythms were written to accompany a series of flims created by Dutch filmmaker Esther Kokmeijer in Antarctica. Some of these stunning visuals can be found online. Now Glacial Movements have released the a second album, Stillness Soundtracks II, with music created over the last 5-6 years for further Antarctic films by Kokmeijer. They lean back towards drone compared to some of the earlier works, and evoke a sense of otherworldliness - not-quite-peace. Works of a composer at the height of his skills.UTILITY FOG FBI Radio
What’s left to say? Stillness Soundtracks the suggestion that there may be a whole left undiscovered, hinting at something beneath the surface that isn’t instantaneously recognisable. Rutger Zuydervelt’s journey into the remote landscapes of sound is far from a solitary one as the music, mysterious as it is, invites you into its imagination as expectations reveal themselves. Sometimes blissful, sometimes altogether darker in temptation. This soundtrack to the visual artist Esther Kokmeijer’s exploration of Antarctica terrain is also an intensely private affair between you and what springs from the speakers. Five pieces form the moments and although it would be unfair to highlight one in particular the warm rushes of emotion and melodic textures emanating from Stillness #9 (Hanusse Bay, Antarctica) are very appealing. Leaving you with the concluding Stillness #10 (Antarctic Sound, Antarctica) by also equalling the charm, this time via choir-like poignancy which is quite breath-taking, the score completes. The accompanying artwork is typically striking, likewise from Glacial Movements, which is incidentally just as well as Rutger Zuydervelt designs them all.MAGAZINE SIXTY
Alessandro Tedeschi‘s fascination with arctic bodies, their cycles, and the imaginary soundtrack accompanying these events approach a life-long dedication to the subject. His independent label, Glacial Movements, has been at the forefront of polar music, showcasing talent from across the globe in this niche sound falling somewhere between microsound, isolationist drone, and ambient minimalism. And that is precisely why I’ve been a fan of the catalog for over a decade. Peruse these pages, and you will notice that I have covered nearly every release. Rutger Zuydervelt, on the other hand, is so prolific in his output, that it would be almost impossible to keep up with his solo albums and collaborations. But I have at least tried to keep up with numerous projects, both under his real name and his alias, Machinefabriek. Besides contributing with his graphic design skills to the imprint, Zudervelt released Stillness Soundtracks on the label back in 2014 [which subsequently appeared on HC’s Best of the Year lists]. Today he’s back with its followup, scoring a series of cinematic landscapes by Esther Kokmeijer, filmed in Antarctica between 2014 and 2017.These are cold and desolate places, with sound supporting their deep-frozen state. The textures evolve, float, and break-up, like growlers and icebergs that casually melt. Zuydervelt’s control of the timing, spaciousness, and an all-encompassing frequency spectrum perfectly compliments the visuals captured by Kokmeijer and imagined by you. This is the type of stillness that refuses to grow, to advance to another stage, to mature and develop. Perfect for retrospectives, meditations, and the insight on within.HEADPHONE COMMUTE
In 2014, Esther Kokmeijer and Machinefabriek released their multimedia project Stillness: a 5-part video documenting Kokmeijer’s trip to the Arctic and the Antarctic. The original USB (video-)release was later followed by the audio-only release of the soundtrack: Stillness Soundtracks. Stillness “depicts tranquil, gliding images of icescapes from the North and South Pole” Kokmeijer “filmed these landscapes during my biannual visits to Antarctica as an expedition photographer. The meditative images invite reflection on the unparalleled beauty of this glacial ecology, which appears both vulnerable and resilient.” Six years later, the story of this journey is retold from a somewhat different perspective. This time, five different locations from Antarctica are pictured. Stillness Soundtracks II is, of course, the audio-only version of their collaboration: for those that want to enjoy the video versions, there’s a USB-version still available from Esther Kokmeijer‘s website.Compared to the first soundtrack, Machinefabriek (Rutger Zuydervelt)‘s soundtrack feels somewhat more emotional, possibly due to “these alarming times with climate change being a more serious threat than ever.” For sounds as ‘glacial’ like this, there could not be a more fitting label than Glacial Movements, the label that also released the first soundtrack edition. This is indeed a chilling soundtrack. Literally.AMBIENT BLOG
Over het nu al legendarische Nederlandse project Machinefabriek van de uit Apeldoorn afkomstige en inmiddels al jaren in Rotterdam woonachtige muzikant Rutger Zuydervelt hoef ik natuurlijk niets meer te vertellen. Niet dat hij naast dit project ook onder zijn eigen naam muziek uitbrengt en tevens met groepen als CMMK, Piiptsjilling, DNMF, Shivers, Cloud Ensemble en FEAN of dat hij daarnaast werkt met vele muzikanten/groepen waaronder Michel Banabila, Dirk Serries, René Aquarius, Gareth Davis, Mariska Baars, Roel Meelkop, Wouter Van Veldhoven, Steven Hess, Bill Seaman, Freiband, Leo Fabriek, Peter Broderick, Tim Catlin, Stephen Vitiello, Jaap Blonk, Anne Bakker, Orphax, Aaron Martin, Celer, Nils Frahm, Philippe Petit en ga zo maar door. Ook niet dat hij sinds 2004 op uiterst veelzijdige wijze experimentele muziek naar buiten brengt, die uiteenloopt van ambient en drones tot neoklassiek, noise en filmmuziek, waarbij hij een gigantisch hoge productie feilloos weet te koppelen aan kwalitatief hoogwaardige muziek, die zowel in eigen beheer als op talloze klasse labels wordt uitgebracht. Om nog maar te zwijgen over het feit dat je zijn discografie vanaf de maan kunt zien. Mooi dat ik dat allemaal niet meer hoef te vertellen en ik me gewoon kan richten op zijn nieuwe cd Stillness Soundtracks II. De cd is uitgebracht op het Italiaanse, prestigieuze label Glacial Movements, dat gerund wordt door muzikant Alessandro Tedeschi van de groepen Netherworld en Liquid Ghosts. Dit label heeft een helder en ijzige filosofie: Places that man has forgotten…icy landscapes…fields of flowers covered eternally with ice… Icebergs colliding amongst themselves. Het label is opgericht om dit soort beelden vertaald naar muziek uit te brengen, hetgeen inmiddels een indrukwekkende discografie heeft opgeleverd. Uiteenlopende artiesten als Rapoon, Aidan Baker, Lull, Murcof, Oophoi, Francisco López, Bvdub, Loscil, Pjusk, Retina.it, Paul Schütze, Philippe Petit, Chihei Hatakeyama, Dirk Serries, Celer en ook Netherworld vind je er terug en allen maken ze ijskoud het verschil. In 2014 brengt Machinefabriek er de cd Stillness Soundtracks uit, waarbij de muziek soundtracks vormen voor een serie cineastische landschappen gemaakt door de Rotterdamse kunstenares, ontdekkingsreizigster, ontwerpster en fotografe Esther Kokmeijer in het Arctisch gebied (vooral Groenland) en Antarctica. De beelden zijn zonder muziek al wonderschoon en vice versa. Beide hebben elkaar niet per se nodig, maar tillen het samen wel naar een ander niveau. Ik waardeer het enorm als soundtracks aansluiten op de beelden, maar compleet op zichzelf kunnen staan. Zuydervelt beheerst ook die kunst als geen ander.Op de nieuwe cd Stillness Soundtracks II gaat Machinefabriek verder met het scheppen van soundtracks voor het beeldmateriaal van Esther Kokmeijer. De cd bevat 5 tracks, die samen een goede 35 minuten duren. Ditmaal zijn de verstilde beelden enkel afkomstig uit Antarctica, die tussen 2014 en 2017 door Kokmeijer geschoten zijn. En zoals het ijs geleidelijk over elkaar schuift, wisselt de muziek ook op een langzaam glijdende schaal van karakter. De kruisbestuiving hier van neoklassiek, drones en ambient is enerzijds isolationistisch en koud, maar anderzijds ook hartverwarmend mooi. Alles staat in het teken van de kou, al wikkelt de muziek zich als een warme deken om je heen. Ook in het boekje vind je werkelijk schitterende foto’s terug van de ijs- en sneeuwlandschappen, die je niet koud zullen laten. De muziek staat wederom ook los van de beelden als een iglo overeind. Ik denk dat liefhebbers van Thomas Köner, Netherworld, Biosphere, Svarte Greiner, Jacaszek, Olan Mill en Ben Frost (hihi) hier gewoonweg van zullen smelten. Het is dan kennelijk ook een ijskoud kunstje voor Zuydervelt geworden om hier wederom een meesterwerk van te maken.SUBJECTIVISTEN
It feels rather bizarre jumping into a second part of a series without having reviewed the first volume, but such is the fast-moving world of underground music that this is inevitable. Needless to say I will be assessing this on its own merits, although I am very familiar with the aesthetic of this Italian label and somewhat familiar with the music of Machinefabriek. Let’s jump without further preamble straight into the icy waters of Glacial Movements’ latest release, then. (Also, for reference, I’ll simply be calling each track by its ‘Stillness #’ for brevity’s sake) Our visit to the vast snowbound southern continent known as Antarctica begins when we sail into ‘Stillness #6’ and, as soon as you step on board the deck of your ship of the imagination, you’re greeted with chillingly cold winds that threaten to freeze you to the spot. Ice crackles create the sounds the movement our virtual vessels makes through the channel, and sonorous drones and a mournful howling paint a vivid picture of the steep cliffs that line each bank of the Lemaire Channel. It is truly an inhuman landscape here, beautiful yet ultimately inhospitable, a place where the human animal is unfit to be a part of and unwelcome. It isn’t any wonder that HP Lovecraft set his seminal tale ‘At the Mountains of Madness’ on Antarctica – only the truly alien could fit in and call it home, plus the cyclopean nature of the natural features instantly separates the two scales of human and inhuman definitively. It is a place to admire from a safe vantage point, but not one to get too intimate with. ‘Stillness #7’ opens out widely, just like the Antarctic Sound itself, a hovering upper register drone floating almost serenely and hauntingly in the frigid air, a platform perhaps for the reverberations and echoes that appear to reach out from a cocoon of quietude, the sounds and emanations remnants of a distant past frozen into the very atmosphere. Unlike the previous track, we feel unbounded and unfettered, an endlessly slow progression of miniscule movements and events that eventually accumulate and shape the very continent itself. Simultaneously it feels fragile, ephemeral, and ghostly, as if possessing qualities that we humans continually fail to grasp both physically and metaphorically. But stillness here is an illusion, as the sounds of running water remind us – in spite of apparent stasis, this vast place is always moving, on both the micro and macro scales. Venturing further, we find ourselves in Laubeuf Fjord, the subject of ‘Stillness #8’. This is another one of those open spaces like that referred to in the previous ‘Stillness’, but judging from photographs it appears to be a feature that could be classed as being one that is very open yet still bounded, sitting in between the Lemaire Channel and Antarctic Sound in topography and size. A keening, whistling high-borne wind swirls around us, a spectral sound that seeps into our bones and mind. It appears not to have one specific source; instead it exists everywhere within this particular space, a presiding spirit if you like firmly and irrevocably tied to this location. In some respects this serves as a species of prelude to ‘Stillness #9’, This track, I think, is the most traditional-sounding ambient piece so far, with sweeping uplifting chords and drones combining to lift one up on subtle currents of air, propelling us into the rarefied regions of the atmosphere where the dancing sprites of the aurora dwell. Indeed, it feels more descriptive of the sky than the earth – one can very easily imagine an uninterrupted and unclouded arch of heaven above, sprinkled with the glittering sequins of the cosmos providing tiny spotlights for the colourful veils of light wafting across it. This feels cold, bright, and distant, but simultaneously warm and inviting. We are graciously being allowed to share in the dance and the bounty. For our last port of call we find ourselves back in Antarctic Sound for ‘Stillness #10’ – this time, however, we are treated to an even more spacious portrait of this place. Warm celestial drones wash over us gently, reminding us perhaps that all places, no matter how familiar they may appear, have different moods in the same way we do. It feels as if this is the last lonely place on our planet, a place of staggering beauty that’s ever-evolving and moving, and that it will continue to do so well after we’ve disappeared from the face of the earth, until the time the sun turns against its own children and engulfs them in flame and destruction. The continent’s very isolation hopefully ensures that our depredations will be non-existent, and that we will see the light and leave it alone. A useless hope perhaps, but this still emphasises that as vast as this tract of ice-bound land at the southern end of the world may be it is still fragile and worthy of our protection. This is a beautiful album, gracing us with a gamut of atmospheres ranging from the frigid and unwelcoming to the warm and embracing. Furthermore, it also speaks of the continent’s contradictory solidity and fragility, as well as its movements and evolution on both the micro- and macroscopic scale. It encompasses all of its facets, bringing with it reminders that not only is it an awe-inspiring place but also dangerous, often for the very same reasons. It’s a continent that very few of us will ever get the chance to physically visit but, if you’re like me, albums like this do more than enough to take me there in spirit, where I can observe in safety and warmth. Given the climatic state of our planet at present, this is about as close as I wish to go. As far as I’m concerned this is another winner from Glacial Movements.1208fullerave.blogspot
ROCKERILLA February 2020