Machinefabriek / Kleefstra, Bakker, Kleefstra / Liondialer: That it Stays Winter Forever
White Box

The impetus for this three-way split CD was a Far East tour that happened in November 2010, the idea being that the release would function as an accompaniment to the Tokyo dates. They're, of course, over now, but the recording itself (issued in a run of 300 copies) remains as a document of what one might have heard at one of the concerts. The so-called ‘Masters of the Dark Arts'—Machinefabriek (Rutger Zuydervelt), Kleefstra/Bakker/Kleefstra (poet Jan and guitarist Romke Kleefstra and guitarist Anne Chris Bakker), and Liondialer (Greg Haines and Danny Saul)—are represented by three exclusive tracks on this collection from Manchester-based White Box Recordings.

Though the artists' respective styles differ from one another, one thing they share is an affinity for long-form pieces, with each of their contributions hovering in the vicinity of twenty minutes. Machinefabriek's “Instuif” eases the listener into the recording nicely with a meditative drone characterized by restraint and speckled with a persistent smattering of pops and crackle that calls to mind the image of a fireplace warming a room during the chill of winter. Though the piece hews closely to a single albeit wavering pitch, the volume of the organ-like chord at the piece's center fluctuates almost imperceptibly, growing louder during one passage and then pulling back in another. Almost as imperceptibly, the intensity of the static and crackle changes in tandem with the volume, reinforcing the notion of the fireplace's warm flicker, though the changes are never so extreme that they disrupt the sense of hypnotic calm that the piece as a whole imparts.

If Kleefstra/Bakker/Kleefstra's “Dat it Altyd Winter Biluwt” sounds similar to Piiptsjilling's recent Experimedia recording, Wurdskrieme, it should, as siblings Jan and Romke Kleefstra appear in both groups (Mariska Baars and Rutger Zuydervelt accompany the brothers in the Piiptsjilling context). As is the case with Piiptsjilling, it is Jan Kleefstra's speaking voice that is the focal point, so captivating is his low-pitched drawl. A sense of menace permeates the jagged, scuttling sounds unspooling behind Kleefstra's Dutch phrases, a quality that turns overt when the voice drops away and the electric guitars swell into expanding and contracting clouds of raw fuzz. In contrast to the relative warmth of the opening piece, the mood in the second is one of gloom and portent, its storm threatening to rise outside in place of the comforting fire inside (Jan's poem, “That it Stays Winter Forever,” which is displayed on the inner sleeve, includes lines such as: “Fling with diabolical sharpness / An arrow into your sleepy eyes”). The dramatic and brooding tone remains in place as Jan reappears a final time until he's lost within a blizzard of metallic guitar noise at track's end.

Liondialer's episodic “Mitt Andra Hem” counters its predecessor's electric storm by opening with a surprising foray into acoustic guitar picking of the kind associated with the American folk tradition. The mournful guitar figures stand alone until, four minutes in, they're transformed via electronic manipulations into something resembling a war-torn soundtrack of distant rumbles and general cataclysm. From the ashes of a ruined landscape, rebirth occurs in the form of Saul's re-awakened acoustic guitar picking and the cry of Haine's cello until they too undergo metamorphosis and become a white-hot stream of electrical fire before returning once more to peaceful terra firma, ending as it began with the acoustic guitar in the spotlight.

Though the idea of a three-way recording might appear, on paper at least, to militate against a sense of cohesiveness, That it Stays Winter Forever ends up being more unified a collection that one might have expected. That's due, in no small part, to the appetite for adventurous experimentation manifested by each of the particpants and exemplified by their respective contributions to the hour-long recording. What also recommends the release is its variety, as each of the twenty-minute pieces ensures that some degree of stylistic contrast will be present.

January 2011