A collaboration with photographer Sanja Harris
1. Machine Room 1
2. Machine Room 2
34 page photo PDF
Two Quicktime movies
Machine Room 1 (Marcus Fischer remix)
Machine Room 2 (Steve Roden remix)
cd, card set and download bundle
Released on Kesh, May 2013
The cd costs 14 euro including postage
Order the cd on Discogs
or by sending an
In 2007 newspaper printer Trouw moved out of their building at the Wibautstraat in Amsterdam. After that the office block, built in 1969 by Van den Broek en Bakema architects, became a restaurant and a venue for converts, club nights and events. On April 19th 2012, the event Hear It! #2 was organised by Amsterdam renowned Stedelijk Museum. I was asked to participate by ‘doing something’ with a machine room in the basement. The machines that controlled the heating and air conditioning throughout the building were still in working order. I composed the piece Kamermuziek, which visitors could listen to while strolling around the pipes and cauldrons of the dim-lit space. The sound of the machines would blend and get into a dialogue with the soundtrack playing through their headphones.
When I visited TrouwAmsterdam (as it’s now called) for the first time, I had access to two connected machine rooms. Due to safety regulations I could only use one of them for the Hear It! event. Also, only eight people at a time were allowed in the room, under guidance of an usher and myself. So despite the big interest among the visitors, many weren’t able to experience the ‘tour’. Photographer Sanja Harris was one of them. We got into a talk, and that’s when the project got wings...
Inspired by the event, Sanja and I developed new ideas to translate the experience of the Kamermuziek installation to a work that was not restricted to the actual machine rooms. We were kindly given permission to make new sound recordings and photographs, which resulted in an audio-visual project consisting of a cd, a series of cards, two downloadable videos and a pdf document.
Long before I ever related the sounds to a musical context, I was fascinated by industrial environmental drone hums. ?I clearly remember staying with my grandparents as a child during school holidays, fascinated by the steady hum of giant propeller ventilators from a nearby storage building. ?This impression has never left me, and I fondly think back to these summer holidays as the fundament of a lifelong addiction to drones of industrial (as well as any other) nature.
Knowing this background, it's probably not hard to understand why a new release by Machinefabriek , called "Machine Rooms ", released on the Keshhhh label (curated by Simon Scott, and mastered by Rafael Anton Irissari) got my immediate and full attention!
But that is simply not enough to introduce this incredible album.
These are not 'just' industrial drones - these are delicate homages to machines that are supporting our everyday life. And continue to do so, even when they are hidden away, put out of use and slowly deteriorating....
There's an interesting background story behind this album:?The basic material was originally created for a single (one time only) location-specific event in an old deserted newspaper printer building in Amsterdam (now known as Trouw , one of Amsterdam's nightlife hotspots), blending the sounds of the two deserted machinerooms in the basement with a (pre-recorded) piece called Kamermuziek .
The result, as said before, is not just a single drone but a delicately adventurous soundscape revealing lots of microscopic details of the surrounding, presented in the personal approach that Rutger "Machinefabriek" Zuydervelt masters so very well.
Far too few people (only 8 at a time) were able to fully enjoy this installation. One of them was photographer Sanja Harris , who invited Rutger to a follow up recording.
Sanja and Rutger decided to follow up this project which lead to this impressive multimedia-release, featuring two 15 minute soundscapes by Machinefabriek, two additional remixes by Marcus Fisher and Steve Roden, as well as two movies and a beautiful set of photograph cards by Sanja Harris.
I know it is quite hard for us mortal people to keep up with Machinefabriek's quality output, each of which deserves investigating. With this combination of soundscapes and visuals, "Machine Rooms" is even more special than all others.
‘Machine Rooms’ is an audio/visual collaboration by renowned musician and sound artist Machinefabriek, and the photographer, Sanja Harris. The premise of the collaboration is that Harris photographed two old machine rooms from a former press building in Amsterdam, and Machinefabriek accompanied those images with audio (This release is also accompanied by movie files of a photographic slideshow, alongside the audio tracks).
What this results in is a subtly stirring, but perfectly emotive journey through the life cycle of precision. Whilst the machines themselves are set to deliver a perfect product every time (indeed, the constant motif of parallels, and exact angles repeated through the images seems to accentuate this), the wear over time has taken its toll. As you progress through the images, (they are split into two sections, one for each room photographed) there is more evidence of degradation and disuse. The music very much echoes these nuances, both pieces starting out with fairly regular melodic pulses. Though the sounds are exact, the surrounding noises seem to flicker like a faulty light bulb, really giving a sense of developed inexactitude, a product of neglect.
The sounds themselves are stunning, polyphonic chimes intersperse with heady whirs, underpinned by grounding sub-bass. These are truly minimal classic pieces shrouded behind a certain automated feel, orchestral swells are replaced with crescendoed whirs and clicks, and bass strings are replaced with warm pulses. Throughout each of the pieces on offer here, there is a definite sense of space, of warmth (though almost oxymoronically, it still feels clinical) and a devout sense of decay. Through this degradation though, comes variation, and it is the variation that really lies at the heart of the pieces. It is somehow stirring, and exciting to hear the sounds become less rigid, to simultaneously lose their structure, and develop a soul.
This difference is most pronounced in the second track. It feels as though the second ‘room’ is dealing with a different process, the sounds themselves maintain less rigidity and warmth, the constant static gives the impression of some sort of expulsion, a purging of something. The high drone sounds like extraction of sorts, dealing with the product of the first piece. The whole collection has a flow to it, a development, and listened to in whole, it is entirely beautiful.
There are two more pieces on offer here, both are remixes of the first two tracks. The first piece is a remix by the hugely talented 12k artist, Marcus Fisher. This piece is not as much a reinterpretation of the first track, but feels a lot more like an extension of it. It seems to echo the feeling of the first piece, but show a different side to it. The sounds feel more raw, like they are representative of the inside of the machinery, they are the more visceral processes hidden behind the decaying functionality of the machines themselves. There is still a sense of slowly breaking down, and again, the sentiments shown in this piece (regarding the melodic progression through rhythmic decay) echo beautifully the track it is a remix of.
The second remix is by the American sound designer and visual artist Steve Roden. This piece itself has a very different feel, and works fantastically well to encapsulate what could be seen as the ambient noise created as a by-product of all the industrious processes of the previous parts. There are panned swells, unbalanced gurgles and atonal drones, building up to the moment where some acoustic instrumentation shows itself. Though it is in the form of (what sounds like) guitar strings being hammered onto, it gives a respite from the overtly mechanical nature of the rest of the collection. This soon breaks into some almost melodic string arrangement in the form of a high pitched (periodically squeaking) violin section, this is then accompanied by further strings covering the low end, and a rhythmic accompaniment in the form of stringed bass, before fading out again to nothing. As a closing track, it is perfectly fitting, and really goes to show what a firm grasp both artists had of the source material, and more importantly, what the source material is setting out to achieve.
Through the sublimely shot images and the stunning and engrossing audio material, ‘Machine Rooms’ really does set the bar for a conceptual album, with both aspects of this beautiful looking package really complimenting the other, and enhancing the synesthetic vision of the whole entity.