Machinefabriek Marijn

[Lampse; 2006]

Styles: experimental turntablism, noise-based electronica, dark ambient
Others: Philip Jeck, Tim Hecker, Martin Tétreault, Daniel Menche

Several weeks ago, I rented a DVD copy of Smiley's People, the 1982 BBC adaptation of John Le Carré's novel starring Alec Guinness as George Smiley. Perhaps it means you're getting old when you start reading Le Carré and Graham Greene, and would rather watch The Constant Gardner than The DaVinci Code, but if that be the case, then so be it. There is a scene in the second episode of the mini-series during which Smiley systematically rifles through the shabby apartment of a Russian agent. He rummages through drawers, searches under mattresses, sifts through ashtrays, and combs the bookcase, looking for a piece of evidence. The scene barely exceeds three or four minutes in length and is completely quiet, save for the sounds of Smiley quietly turning over a man's apartment. It was dark when I watched the scene, and the temperature in my house was probably between 75 and 80 degrees. I found myself mesmerized by the sounds coming from the television and began to nod off. The next day I put the DVD in my computer, and created an MP3 audio file of that scene. Listening to the track later, I discovered that it lost nothing of its tranquility and soothing charm, but with the absence of the video component with which to contextualize the sound, the file attained an oddly mysterious otherworldliness. I don't know when I'll ever find occasion to listen to the piece again, but I felt like I needed to commit the scene to audio for safe-keeping.

There is a similarly somber and otherworldly quality to Marijn, the proper full-length debut from Machinefabriek. An electronic noise project of Dutch musician Rutger Zuydervelt, Machinefabriek fits fairly neatly into the Philip Jeck/Otomo Yoshihide/Christian Marclay school of avant-garde experimental turntablism. To this listener's ears, every single track on Marijn contains sounds clearly sourced from vinyl. The needle noise ranges from barely audible to borderline distracting, but it nonetheless maintains an omnipresence throughout the record. Unlike most of Zuydervelt's musical forebears, however, Machinefabriek makes liberal use of piano on each track as well ”” to the point where the album has been labeled "post rock" in some circles (though it is much more experimental and improvisational than most post rock this reviewer has encountered).

Throughout the album, ominous rumblings and scrapings suggest vague, shambling movement. The spare, minor-key piano melodies employed herein fall somewhere between Frédéric Chopin and Harold Budd, only darker and considerably more haunting. Though the piano on Marijn is inclined toward loop-based repetition, Zuydervelt relies on shifting sounds and textures to propel these tracks. But each piece evolves slowly, forcing the listener to concentrate on the textural nuances just as much as, if not more than, the melody itself. Subtlety is the operative word on this particular Machinefabriek outing, though the pieces periodically achieve an almost claustrophobically oppressive sense of foreboding, particularly the sixth and final track, "Lawine," which gradually builds in cacophonous intensity until anxiety ultimately ensues. Through the use of both acoustic and electronic instrumentation, Machinefabriek uses the recognizable as a template, building upon the sounds by treating them electronically and rendering them more often than not as eerily alien soundscapes. Marijn is an exceptional release that will be music to the ears of anyone who can appreciate needle noise as one of life's simple pleasures.

1. Kreukeltape
2. Somerset
3. Wolkenkrabber
4. Schipbreuk
5. J'espere ca
6. Lawine