Categories
ambient

J. T. Boogaard & R. M. van der Meulen – PLACE

Eindhoven is no Rotterdam, although both cities have similarities: a lot of new buildings, wide streets (initially build for cars), daring architecture, rough edges and a couple of cozy working-class neighborhoods.

This morning I took a walk through Strijp-S and Woensel West with PLACE as a soundtrack. I was lucky: all the elements for a perfect experience were present. A beautiful low sun produced a warm glow and generated a bit of warmth and there were hardly any people outside.

Most of the names on this cassette tape, released by Rotterdam based cassette label No Hay Banda, refer to different locations. For me, the soundscapes do well with these far from polished cities. Maybe because it’s so obvious they aren’t perfect. While living in Cologne I used GAS and the Kompakt Ambient Pop series as a soundtrack for my city walks. Heerlen, for me, is a perfect match for the releases on Pollen Records and most of the Border Community stuff.

PLACE does a good job in Eindhoven. The seven tracks on this tape seem to be especially crafted with an eye for detail, but fact is that there are the outcome of an improvisation. Roel van der Meulen (active as singer-songwriter RoelRoel) and Jasper Boogaard (in Nagasaki Swim and founder of Front) gathered their machines and got together in their home studio and started building these soundscapes.

Seven beautiful time capsules are the result of this meditation. Flirting with the warm melancholy of La Düsseldorf (‘Nieuwe Westerdokstraat’), estranging and open (‘II’), pastoral, cold and slowly building toward a climax that never comes (‘La Vilette’, ‘Nieuwkoopse Plassen’) and mysteriously exciting (opener ‘I’). There are references to the Cologne ambient sound and releases on Border Community, but Van der Meulen and Boogaard definitely succeed in creating a sound of their own.

Love the fact that there are no beats present. It makes PLACE ideal as an environmental soundtrack, adjustable to the pulse of the moment.

Can’t wait to use this excellent tape for my walk or bike-ride through the dunes near Haarlem.

PLACE by J. T. Boogaard & R. M. van der Meulen is released by No Hay Banda.

Categories
ambient electronic

Fridolijn – Chapter Two

Although Fridolijn van Poll considers triphop as one of her major influences, her music has mostly been described as jazzy dream folk. Echos of Portishead and Massive Attack are definitely there: her sound is floating in a pleasant, distancing mood. She has been described as the heir of Nick Drake. On Catching Currents, she floats – yes, definitely a reoccurring word – between the softness of Joni Mitchell and the dreamy, untouchable sound of minimalist composers.

Earlier this year the singer-songwriter from Amsterdam released Chapter One, a collection of three songs somewhere between dreampop and folktronica. Follow-up Chapter Two just came out and takes the electronica influences even further. Together with actor and composer Lieuwe Roonder, Fridolijn crafted three moody, dreamy songs that rub against ambient house. The songs have two versions: a vocal and an instrumental one.

Fridolijn’s voice has distinct qualities and gives the songs a dreamy feel and on the moody side more depth, but to be honest, I absolutely love the instrumental versions. ‘Once More’ as instrumental for example sounds like quality microhouse from Cologne and could earn a place on one of the recent compilation by Kompakt.

The same goes for ‘Forever Maybe’ and ‘If Your Heart Were A City’. The slowed-down rhythm of the first one is mysterious and distant and would be a cool edition to next years Velvet Desert compilation. ‘If Your Heart Were A City’ is more ambient and moody, like the work of producer The Field.

Can’t wait for Chapter three.

Chapter Two by Fridolijn is released by Freija Label / Lab Music.

Categories
ambient electronic pop

Velvet Desert Music #2

Another compilation. While I normally listen to podcasts and my own playlists when I’m on the move, being in quarantine at home makes me long for selections by others. Since I don’t like Spotify and Bandcamp still doesn’t offer a playlist option (what is wrong with you guys!?), I’ve been turning to compilations and mixes.

Now, the best compilations come from Kompakt. The record label from Cologne has some long-running series: Total, Pop, Ambient. The quality is always high. I love the label. It released some of the best electronic music tracks and my top 10 of best dance tracks ever is filled with Kompakt stuff. I wrote about them in 2013 in The Quietus (read it here).

But when they announced a new compilation series called Velvet Desert, I was sceptical. Desert? Really? I mean, I’ve lived in Cologne for a couple of years, and I still have a lot of different associations with the city. Desert isn’t one of them. Since I believed that Kompakt and Cologne are like ying and yang, I had a tough time figuring out how to fit in heat, drought and sand.

Well, I have this habit of overthinking stuff. Sorry about that.

With Velvet Desert, Kompakt wants to bring together contemporary electronic music that combines elements of rock, folk, country, surf, krautrock and psychedelics. Announcing the first edition, compiler Jörg Burger described the essence like this:

“Just think…from Sergio Leone to David Lynch, from Elvis in his deepest moments to Johnny Cash somewhere between amphetamine backlash and American Songs, from Hollywood Babylon to Hotel California, from Mulholland Drive to Paris, Texas. Served with a pinch of Tago Mago and Pink Floyd at Pompeii. Then you know exactly what Velvet Desert Music is about…”

Totally get Jörg’s idea, but I still had some concerns. That’s my flaw, sometimes I need some time to adjust to new situations.

With this second instalment, I’m ready to embrace Jörg’s concept, although I still think the music on this compilation would do a great job as the soundtrack for a space-age western. Music-wise, this collection of slow and electronic excursions into folk, krautrock, psychedelics and world music is really nice. Starting off with ‘Not So Far Away’ by Michael Mayer, a slow moody track with an incredible bass sound, it sets an atmosphere of detachment, submission and fernweh.

All of the fourteen entries are great, but the ones by Michael Mayer, Sascha Funke (dub blending with 80s guitar prog) and Lake Turner/WEM/Hand (the only faster song: sort of Neu!-like indie glam-rock) and Pluramon (what La Düsseldorf would sound like in 2020) are amazing.

Maybe the combination Kompakt, Köln and desert isn’t so strange after all.

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Velvet Desert Music #2, compiled by Jörg Burger, is released by Kompakt.