Standards (of Sorts)

Gareth Davis & Machinefabriek

1. Self Same
2. Klangs That You Are
3. Funny V
4. Action Take
5. Grounded

cd/dl/stream on Sublime Retreat, May 2022

Order here

Standards (of Sorts) takes the most simple idea of the Jazz Standard, of improvising on a given theme, and puts this in a new perspective.

Using both 'standards' and how we can 'misremember' as starting concepts, rather than dive into the Great American Songbook, Gareth Davis and Rutger Zuydervelt (Machinefabriek) chose to use pieces of contemporary classical music as the material for their point of departure.

Tiny fragments of a few notes, sometimes misremembered, from various works, became the starting sounds to create something new. Five new pieces that explore not the idea of taking a theme and making a variation but rather remembering an idea and creating something out of that memory.


Foxy Digitalis

Rutger Zuydervelt’s Machinefabriek continues to evolve and expand into new, compelling spaces, and the ongoing collaboration with clarinetist Gareth Davis is one of my favorite avenues of his work. Davis is incredible, and his ability to fuse inquisitive technique and emotive timbres pairs fantastically with Zuydervelt’s expansive electronics. From quiet introspection and specious minimalism to full-on drone skree, Standards breaks down our ideas of what we think we know and constructs new, improvised flares. Textural passages hint at hidden details below the surface where sonic liminality glimmers in full bloom. Standards is tremendous.

The Sound Projector

Now here’s Machinefabriek teamed up with Gareth Davis on Standards (of sorts) (SR012). It’s quite a different proposition to the above items. It’s still pretty conceptual though. As you may know the history of jazz music in America is full of “standards”, that is well-known popular songs from Tin Pan Alley or Broadway which were used by musicians – everyone from Charlie Parker to Miles Davis and John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk – as the starting point for extemporisation. Any good jazz combo would have memorised the chord changes, melodies, and structures of these songs, starting off with the “head” so that the audience would have something recognisable, before departing into their improvisations (which, after be-bop, became progressively more free and experimental). This process is now rethought and even perhaps détourned by today’s record; the two musicians are trying to recast the whole idea of “thriving on a riff” and put it into a new perspective. For starters, they didn’t use songs by Cole Porter or Arthur Schwartz, and instead inform us that they “use pieces of contemporary classical music as the material for [the] point of departure.” Which pieces? We don’t know; are we hearing their take on a Stockhausen score, or are they reworking a loop from a CD of Mozart concertos? However, the link to jazz is still (just about) intact, as Gareth Davis plays the clarinet, occasionally even freaking out in a manner that wouldn’t seem out of place on a 1969 BYG LP. But Machinefabriek’s electronic music is strange and alienating, confirming the very experimental nature of this release. There’s one other tenuous popular song connection as track two is titled ‘Klangs That You Are’, obliquely referring to the 1939 hit by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein, but including the German word for “sound” and reminding us (in a rather humourous manner) that this is a sound-art experiment. These two have been paired before (e.g. on Ghost Lanes from 2011) and we’ve heard Davis blow his clarinet on many experimental, improvised, semi-classical and avant-rock records in the past.

Vital Weekly

Rutger Zuydervelt, aka Machinefabriek (electronics) and Gareth Davis (clarinet, bass clarinet), had a long time ago a concise record in which they played two jazz standards, 'My Funny Valentine' and 'Oh Doctor Jesus' (see Vital Weekly 789). These were not easily recognized. For their latest work, they didn't choose standards from the world of jazz but contemporary classical music. The five pieces, Self Same', 'Klangs That You Are', 'Funny V', 'Action Take' and 'Grounded', did not indicate which pieces we are talking about here; but, hey, I am no expert. I reviewed various works from them as a duo, and it seems to me that Davis's improviser is contagious for Machinefabriek. We don't hear him often in a more improvised mood than here. There is quite a bit of electronics at work here, I believe, from both players, and with Machinefabriek doing the majority. I don't know if that is the case, but I can imagine that he also does some real-time processing of Davis' clarinet playing. I couldn't recognize any familiarity with modern classical music. Still, the cover says 'everything is remembered badly', so the players here do not exactly remember how a particular piece should be played. I quite enjoyed the music here. There is a sort of electro-acoustic vibe within the music, of acoustic sounds, loops of saxophone playing, and obscured electronics. Only occasionally, it leans a bit too much towards the world of improvisation, and it seems to be less for me, but within the context that this music is made, I can understand their choices. The strangest piece is 'Action Take', which uses a simple, yet effective rhythm loop to accompany the music. Slow but steady, it ticks away time, and while odd, it is certainly not out of place. It surely makes up for a nicely varied disc of music.


Standards site

Standards site