Machinefabriek with Anne Bakker

1. Introductie
2. Sirene
3. Oehoe I
4. Harrewar
5. Stuiver
6. Oehoe II
7. Schim
8. Stemmig
9. Voorwaarts
10. Oehoe III

lp/dl on Where To Now? Records
cd self released
June 2020

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Rutger Zuydervelt aka Machinefabriek needs no introduction - a hugely prolific Electronic Experimenter who has recorded for labels such as Type, Digitalis, Dekorder, Western Vinyl, and many many more, Where To Now Records are truly humbled to handle his latest collaborative work ‘Oehoe’. Produced in collaboration with viola/violinist Anne Bakker, a classically trained solo artist in her own right, and currently performing strings as part of Agnes Obel’s band, Machinefabriek here has sown a landscape of Anna’s raw violin, viola, and vocal improvisations into a stirring body of work which merges tradition, experimentation, and whimsical curiosity to create a distinctively unique album which is both deeply moving and playfully dissonant in equal measure.

Given that Anne’s improvised vocals are wordless throughout, it is to Rutger’s absolute credit that he has assembled and transcended these intonations to often devastating emotional effect. Anna’s vocal experiments exude classical polyphonic antiquity, they lushly hover above her own Reichian minimalist string arrangements, and Machinefabriek’s deeply brooding, cacophonic synthesized soundscapes. Across these 10 pieces we delve into a world which seamlessly moves between a state of harmonious contentment; or a very murky calm, to moments of lively ecstasy, and deep deep down to a vast and brooding melancholy.



With these ten concise tracks - the longest less than five minutes, the shortest 34 seconds - Rutger Zuydervelt aka Machinefabriek continues his lively exploration of electroacoustic possibilities while renewing his sympathetic working partnership with the versatile vocalist, viola and violin player Anne Bakker. The Arcs of her wordless singing are smooth and gently undulating. Her string playing too, although now and again it becomes markedly more angular and accentuates friction. Machinefabriek’s electronic treatments can be complementary and supportive, yet often they provide contrast, playful rather than subversive in their musically allusive wit and unpredictable trajectories. While Oehoe has its share of beauty, this virtual duo really come to life in the calculated collisions and entertaining surprises.

The Squid's Ear

It his hard to know where to start when approaching Rutger Zuydervelt's (Machinefabriek) vast catalogue for the first time. Oehoe seems as good a place as any.

Oehoe contains moments of the electronic psychedelia and sound splicing that Machinefabriek has nearly perfected over the years. But, with Anne Bakker it is so much more than that. She grounds the collaboration. Her vocals and strings (violin and viola) dance with the digital rummaging and post-synth-pop/Krautrock tendencies of Zuydervelt and consistently pull the music back from the outer ether to more earthly terrain. Zuydervelt fights back with his broken circuits and beats, but, even when looped, isolated, distorted, and redeployed, Bakker's contributions keep the music firmly terrestrial and, sometimes, even folkishly and polyphonically medieval. For his part, Zuydervelt seems to be playing with numerous inspirations. One hears patchwork atmospherics, experimental Kraftwerk, juicy but brief new wave melodies, and rich, staticky musique concrete.

If you are familiar with Machinefabriek or Bakker, Oehoe will likely not shock you. Even if you are not yet familiar with the pair, there is little shocking about this disc. Although the music is experimental, it is much more predisposed to calm introspection than vanguardism. It is that concerted push inward rather than outward, that desire to examine their sounds up close, that makes this a fine addition to Machinefabriek oeuvre and a step forward for the Zuydervelt and Bakker, who have been collaborating for several years now. Oehoe is short, but also coherent and it leaves the listener wanting more. It is delicate, but also somewhat rough and hazy. Most importantly, rather than the synthetic layers that normally result from electronics and strings, the music on Oehoe is deeply integrated and strangely organic. The result is an album that is dreamy and spacey but somewhat dark. It sounds, at times, hauntingly ancient, but Machinefabriek's characteristic synth and fragmented sonic imaginary are proof of its modernity, though processed through a 1980s futurist aesthetic. It is a curiosity in time and influence that examines moods and shades rather than shapes and trajectories. And for that, it is all the more compelling.


Oehoe is the result of a collaboration between electronic act Machinefabriek (Rutger Zuydervelt) and violin/viola player Anne Bakker. Sitting somewhere between melody and drone, Oehoe blends its numerous individual sound sources into an intimate collage. Bakker has already recorded in a similar style—entwining her vocals and instrumentation together with EP Vox/Voila—but Zuydervelt’s contribution on Oehoe is to push things much farther leftfield, and provide a great deal of sonic intricacy and experimentation.

This intricacy isn’t obvious straight away. Elements are disguised within one another, and the sheer craft of Oehoe only reveals itself when you consciously seek it. Composition and instrumental voicing have a comforting traditionalism—but, to find it, you must blindly stumble through a mix of obfuscated, elongated and inverted natural sounds. Zuydervelt raises thick fog of modernity; a sort of urgent ambience. Bakker shatters through with strains and squeals that possess a wonderful, tense fragility. It feels as though the strings of her viola—or throat—may snap at any second.

It’s an elegant dance of two very different styles, but these two performers remain in service to one another’s work throughout Oehoe. As with any good collaboration, it’s impossible to pinpoint where either’s influence begins or ends. It’s a case of one aim being sought from several radically different, yet complementary, starting points.

Oehoe straddles many years and regions of musical tradition, flitting between touchstones of Swedish folk, modern classical, concrète and noise. It’s unique and brutal work, like half-disintegrated sheet music exhumed from an archaeological dig and digitally reassembled by an AI.

Both Bakker and Zuydervelt rile against the sterile clarity which normally surrounds chamber music. The duo finds truth in scuffiness. That truth: what we actually hear when a tone is produced is a scream, the scream of bow and string slowly shredding each other to pieces. It’s the same sort of cool cacophony as Björk’s Utopia, which made liberal use of the screeching of tropical birds. Oehoe more clearly states its aims though, with neither the ego nor eye-watering budget to follow its artists’ every grandiose impulse. While musically, it may bear superficial resemblance to Björk’s latest, it has the spirit of her earlier (better) work; smudging the line between play and stern efficiency so well you forget such a thing exists.


The refined sound designs of Rutger Zuydervelt (aka Machinefabriek) and the harmonies of the violinist/violist Anne Bakker had already entwined on several occasions, to the point of forming a solid expressive mélange that now reaches its fourth studio chapter. In less than half an hour Oehoe condenses a surprising amount of sound suggestions, guiding us through the greenery of electronic gardens which a labyrinthine play of mirrors renders seemingly endless.

Even after a few listens I was unable to set aside the image of a knowing chase on the wave of a fatal seduction: something similar to Bernini’s ‘Apollo and Daphne’, the infinite grace and the momentum of the flexuous shapes modeled from raw marble, a laborious coming into the world that gives rise to a sudden apparition, a sensorial epiphany that contains entire narratives.

Thus in Oehoe the string instruments and the angelic vocalizations of Bakker populate the sound area with elasticity and unpredictable dynamism, partitioned and reconfigured by the deus ex machina Zuydervelt in loosely geometric or abstract patterns. 
Unorthodox counterpoints of digital harpsichords, guitars, lumps of synthesizers and rhythmic textures manifest themselves through the broad compositional spectrum, in a chaotic but admirably balanced combination of heterogeneous and elusive acoustic sources, like a mixed chamber ensemble projected into a kaleidoscope.

Oehoe has the rare merit of being a succinct but multivocal work, open not only to readings but also to listening experiences that are always new, as changeable as the points of view on an ingenious trompe-l’œil, harbinger of decorative details and symbols “hidden in plain sight”. This is high-level sound craftsmanship.

Drifting, Almost Falling

Machinefabriek should be no stranger to readers of this blog as possibly would Anne Bakker who has worked on half a dozen releases with Rutger as well as having an accomplished solo and collaborative career herself. It would appear that this particular release is more a a distant work than a together collaboration with Bakker recording her own vocals, viola and violin and Zuydervelt constructing the pieces. How exactly does one describe these pieces? Electroacoustic? Modern Composition? Experimental? They are all these and some more. Of all the releases I have heard this year, this has the most otherworldly, alien like sound I have experienced. The pieces are free form explorations of sound with fragments of structure that sneak in from time to time. The pieces vary each artists contribution making sure that neither are the dominant force with the way that they are woven together making for a cohesive collaboration and not a one sided release. Some pieces like “Voorwaarts” approach more structural styles which teases the audience, but then you realise it’s Machinefabriek and you are not going to get music that is too accessible.

A Closer Listen

Oehoe is a collaboration with Anne Bakker, whose viola, violin and wordless vocals are woven throughout the tapestry. The album’s title is translated “eagle-owl,” which seems appropriate as the owl is a symbol of wisdom, a gift sorely needed right now. Other titles are translated penny (good for making wishes in a fountain), gesture and forward. From these we can glean the positive nature of the release, which possesses an otherworldly timbre, bordering on sci-fi. One can imagine drifting in space, coming into contact with an alien species whose language is akin to that of “Sirene.” The only difference: as a siren, Bakker is benign. There are no rocks to crash upon, only soft lights and permission to dock. The lasers and taps of this track seem like cautious attempts at communication; one early sound (00:28-00:40) even seems like a meow. We hope the captain has brought fish.

The combination of strings, voice and electronics also recalls This Mortal Coil, whose triptych of releases from 1984-91 still manages to sound timeless. The three-part title track offers an ongoing chorus of sorts, a unifying glue. But the beauty of the release is that it comforts as it disorients, a curious combination. In “Harrewar” (no Dutch translation; Hausa for “The Harrowing”), sudden string passages topple head-first into hungry gears. The halting tone is akin to that of “Barker,” an excellent Machinefabriek track released earlier this year. The culmination is “Voorwaarts,” which develops a pulse, inviting newfound friends to swivel across the dance floor.

It’s interesting to see the preponderance of female voices in A.I. depictions; perhaps one can blame HAL 9000 for ruining it for men. Bakker’s voice is filtered through electronics in order to sound alien.  In other projects, electronic voices are fed through computers in order to sound human. There’s no telling where Bakker ends and Machinefabriek begins; one would need a Turing Test to untangle the threads. But comfort is comfort, no matter the source. The cyborg nature of this release is an example of the positive melding of humanity and technology, a sign that maybe, just maybe, we’re moving in the right direction after all.


Ik ben op voorhand al uitermate verheugd als ik hoor dat Machinefabriek en Anne Bakker met een nieuw album komen. Hoewel ik zeker Zuydervelt, door zijn hoge productiviteit, geen uiltje zie knappen is de titel Oehoe geworden. De oehoe, die ook al weer een tijd in Nederland voortkomt, leeft in uiteenlopende gebieden zoals boreaal naaldwoud, mediterraan gebied met struikgewas, bos- en grassteppen, heuvelland en middengebergte. Dat lijkt ook op hetgeen Zuydervelt hier muzikaal neerzet. Rauwe klanklandschappen die variëren van adembenemend mooi en haast onbegaanbaar tot broeierig gedetailleerd en van een grillige, overdonderende grootsheid. Daar worden de minimalistische, Giacinto Scelsi– en Steve Reich-achtige strijkgeluiden in gezaaid, die de toch al spannende stukken voorzien van verrassende franje; de bloemen en beken in de ongerepte bergen, een aangrijpende schakering van natuurelementen of een plots opduikende oehoe. Daar komt nog de zang van Bakker bij, die woordloos, etherisch en geïmproviseerd is en dikwijls bestaat uit “oehoe”-achtige klanken. Ik denk dat dit ook eerder de titel verklaart plus dat veel van haar sounds zweven over het door Zuydervelt geschapen landschap. De zang doet overigens zowel aan de klassieke sirenes denken, maar roept ook associaties op met die emotievolle zang uit de derde symfonie van Henryk Górecki. Buitengemeen mooi, zoveel mag duidelijk wezen. Van links naar rechts duurt dit alles slechts 26 minuten, maar door de rijke detaillering, de grilligheid naar boven en beneden door meer en minder volume, kakofonische en dan weer serene klanken en diepgang door complexiteit in zowel de compositie als emotie, lijkt dit op een positieve wijze veel langer te duren. De avontuurlijke muziek brengt op fascinerende wijze in elk geval veel. Dit is bepaald geen uilen naar Athene dragen, maar een gevleugeld meesterwerk.


Bakker is een violiste, altvioliste en vocaliste die thuis is in verschillende muzikale werelden. Zij maakt(e) deel uit van Quibus en het Göksel Yılmaz Ensemble en daarnaast werkte zij met onder meer Michel Banabila, Blaze Bayley, Thomas Zwijsen, Celine Cairo, Kristoffer Gildenlöw en Agnes Obel. Bakker is ook singer-songwriter en in 2018 verscheen haar eerste solo-ep Vox/Viola.

In tegenstelling tot Duplant, werkte Zuydervelt al vaker met Bakker. Samen zijn zij te horen op onder andere Halfslaap II (2015 en 2017), Crumble (2016), Deining (2017) en Short Scenes (2018). Er kan gesproken worden van een vruchtbare samenwerking, waarbij de muzikale focus bij elke uitgave anders ligt. Weliswaar is het nieuwe album Oehoe enigszins te vergelijken met Short Scenes als het gaat om de korte tijdsduur van een aantal stukken, maar de muzikale uitkomst is heel anders.

Dat komt met name doordat Bakkers stem op het nieuwe album een prominente plaats heeft gekregen. Het viool- of altvioolspel gaat veelal vergezeld van woordloze zang en die combinatie vormt regelmatig de leidraad. De (alt)vioolklanken en stem zorgen voor een wonderschoon muzikaal bad, dat door de elektronica-muzikant van een experimentele rand wordt voorzien: aanvullend, ondermijnend, ontregelend of versterkend. Soms werkt het ook andersom, of weven de twee muzikanten elkaars klanken gelijkwaardig door elkaar heen.

In ‘Sirene’ is sprake van een ontregelend effect. Het serene en klassiek geschoolde geluid van Bakker wordt met drukke elektronica beantwoord, alsof Zuydervelt nerveus rond zijn muzikale partner cirkelt. In dezelfde track komt hij verderop tot rust en vloeien elektronische en akoestische klanken in elkaar over. In Schim lijken de klanken soms vanuit het duister op te duiken, en dat geldt niet alleen de elektronica maar ook de vioolklanken. Met een combinatie van statische, bewegende en ritmische geluiden wordt een enerverend stuk geschapen.

‘Harrewar’ is het meest noisy klinkend stuk op Oehoe. Rommelige klanken starten het stuk, waarna een drone van Zuydervelt en snelle klanken van de viool invallen. Het gerommel gaat ondertussen door, verdwijnt even en steekt weer de kop op. Bakkers zang is de rustgevende factor, maar die moet regelmatig opboksen tegen een veelheid aan klanken. In Stuiver wordt het muzikale parcours verstoord door elektronische klanken die van alle kanten lijken te worden afgevuurd. Bakker speelt en zingt stoïcijns door, ook als zij zichzelf met pizzicato spel ritmisch tegenwicht geeft.

Ondanks de grote elektronische inbreng, klinkt Oehoe niet overheersend elektronisch, getuige ook het titelstuk, dat in drie delen over het album is verdeeld, waarin Bakker een bedaarde, enigszins klassieke sfeer weet te scheppen waar Zuydervelt zijn klanken op aanpast. Dat staat in scherp contrast tot het korte ‘Stemmig’, waarin Bakkers stem van echoënde effecten is voorzien en met een zeer levendig elektronisch motief wordt omringd. ‘Voorwaarts’ doet zijn titel eer aan met een gestaag ritmisch patroon dat als basis dient. De verschillende lagen van viool en altviool weven een netwerk van klanken dat hypnotiserend werkt. Dat effect duurt echter maar kort, maar keert verderop in een andere gedaante terug.

Voor meer prachtige muzikale vondsten geldt dat ze een relatief kort leven zijn beschoren. Bakker en Zuydervelt wensen niet te veel in herhaling te vallen en dat maakt dat het album, ondanks de korte tijdsduur, een grote hoeveelheid muzikale ideeën bevat. Oehoe is een gevarieerd elektro-akoestisch album, een kunstwerk met een speelse experimentele inslag, en bijzonder mooi bovendien.