Occasionally you get asked to review some pieces of music that really stretch your previous boundaries in music listening and these two offerings from Machinefabriek were a welcome surprise,  both of them opening up new sonic horizons that would otherwise have remained unexplored.

Machinefabriek is Rutger Zuyderfelt,  a talented graphic artist and musician from Rotterdam, Holland, The Netherlands. Since 2004 his output on the independant music scene has been prolific and as well as numerous self-published singles, EP’s and albums he has appeared on mainstream labels including Type, Home Normal, Digitalis, Dekorder, Low point and Fang Bomb, to name but a few.  

His music is difficult to pigeonhole and varies from the highly experimental to more approachable melodic pieces and usually involves manipulation of generated sound from a wide range of electronic and acoustic instruments.  Arguably his best works have resulted from a collaborative approach with other artists and it is just such a work, ‘The Hilary Jeffery Tape’ which I will look at first.  

This two track single is presented in the unusual cassette format and limited to 100 copies with mp3 downloads supplied after purchase of the cassette. Rutger has collborated in this venture with the trombonist Hilary Jeffery from Amsterdam who has appeared with the Kilimanjaro Dark Jazz Orchestra and lately with Kreepa, Lysn and Sand (Planet Mu and Adnoiseam labels).

We are firmly on experimental ground here with fairly melancholic trombone playing occasionally punctuated by loud cinematic and energetic blasts that are either extremely bassy, or pitched high so that they can be manipulated down by Rutger’s subtle electronic intervention.

Hilary is the more unconventional of the two tracks and we are treated to a variety of applied effects which make the trombone resonate, turn into a pulsing beat, or flatten out into more familiar drone territory. There is a wonderful airy descending drone effect towards the end of the track which terminates in a high pitched whistle and I suspect that even Hilary’s own breathing in between played parts has been manipulated to become part of the music.  

Jeffery opens with a piercing blast on the trombone at the start, but then turns into a gentle warble and eerie tremble accompanied by string like drones. At one point the trombone breaks out from the background drone like a liner clearing a fog bank and produces a resounding wave of bass that hits you in the stomach. This is the better track on the release for me and is a truly fluid symbiosis of trombone and electronic experimentation.

The two tracks do demand to be replayed so that you can  pick up all the nuances of sound treatment which are interwoven with the trombone playing to great effect.

The Hilary Jeffery Tape by Machinefabriek (MF014). Cassette Single limited to 100 copies with free mp3’s on purchase. Brown carton arigato pack. 6 Euro inc. shipping worldwide. http://www.machinefabriek.nu/Duotoon is a highly experimental solo work by Machinefabriek which explores the micro-tonal world of the humble sine wave. The piece is said to be inspired by Alvin Lucier and Steinbruchel and was computer generated using the now abandoned Soundedit software which was a basic sound editor produced for the MAC. The whole piece develops over 19 minutes from a single frequency via added harmonics and timbres then back to the single frequency. It opens with what sounds like the sine wave reference tone from a TV test card, but is perhaps more akin to the 440Hz, or ‘Concert A’ as it is called, tuning tone corresponding to the note A above middle C.

This rather cold and uninteresting tone stays with us for the first 1:30 before being joined by another lower tone which gently oscillates and then becomes a base tone by 4:00. By 6 minutes in we have a base tone becoming punctuated by an increasing number of notes. The higher tones interweave, rise in pitch and oscillate in a gently pulsing motion then transform by 13:00 into a deep bassy rotating drone which is joined by a transmission type of  chattering which pans around a middle tone before fading out once more to the pure sine wave.

As an experimental piece and an exploration of the microsounds produced by the simplest of sound forms this is worth listening to, but I suspect the replay value will be limited. This CD is clearly aimed at determined fans and collectors of Machinefabriek’s work.

Duotoon by Machinefabriek (MF012). 3″ CD in duotone CD wallet. 7 Euro including worldwide postage. http://www.machinefabriek.nu/