Music is like food and luckily I’m a cook and gourmand, not a food critic. So without objectivity or completeness this is the music that made me get out the cutlery. To savour, dissect, digest, discover and assimilate its inner ingredients and preparation. In short: the music that made my music.
• Weerthovian 13 of ’13 •
Being those artists and albums that I discovered this year and blew my mind (not with one song, but for the whole ride), fell on fertile soil, pried their way in my musical fermentation tank and had an impact on my own music-making in 2013. (in no particular order)
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Dutch Uncles – Out of Touch in the Wild
So, you want to occupy the space-time continuum with audio waves. Than get on with it, spill the beans. Make music that isn’t scared to be poppy as hell or downright unlistenable when necessary. Music that tries to swoon me with deliciously constructed melodies, smart-ass self-conscious swagger and drool-inducing choice of sounds and instruments. Music that dictates with a middle finger up my arse which tools, studio-trickery (or lack thereof) and means to an end it decides to use to tell its story. The funny thing is: this album actually fails to deliver. Out of Touch in the Wild wants to be unruly and autonomous, with cheeky manoeuvres in every corner. At the same time it is meticulously constructed and is begging to be liked. It wants to be a misunderstood masterpiece but fluent hipster-pop at the same time. But this is actually what I really like about it. And it doesn’t try to hide its intentions, which makes it extra charming. Maybe it is music for musicians and I like it because I’m listening from a fellow-maker perspective. It may be a stinted effort but what you end up with is a delicious intermediate between Talking Heads and Cardiacs, filled to the brim with mightly solid tracks.
Igorrr – Hallelujah
Damn, making music is gooood. And listening to someone who is having a damn good time making music without mercy is damn goooooood. It was damn time someone FINALLY made this album. Genres are for the weak. Igorrr is a deliciously refreshing and bloody breeze who understands baroque IS metal IS breakcore IS folklore IS every object or animal making sound IS muzak IS hell IS heaven, as long as you want it to be so, ask people to do what you cannot, be brilliant and at the same time work your ass off to make it consistent. And Uncle Igorrr did. Damn.
Matmos – The marriage of True Minds
Matmos are Kings in telling stories with structured sounds in time (= music), and show how the medium is capable of having a few dimensions extra. I’ve always enjoyed Matmos, but with The Marriage of True Minds they might have made their most wellrounded, well produced album yet. And even better: without sounding like tiresome intellectuals, and doing so without forcing it upon you. No conceptual crap, this is great great story telling. — yet I’ve always felt their was a link missing, and then a few weeks ago (for how I didn’t know about them all this time is beyond me) these guys came into my view:
The Books – Well yeah, everything they ever did
Yep, the missing link was language. For language is just a form of sound. And nobody understands this better than The Books. I’ve always been searching which role language plays in my own music. After my language laden album HOI came the instrumental EP Out of Control, yet how does it all fit in the bigger picture..? And then The Books enter the stage. BAM. A whole discography filled with inspirational music from guys who gave language the place it deserves. As an integral part of music, not squirted on top of it. I haven’t devoured all their albums yet, instead I take my sweet time to digest it all. But enjoying everything they trow at me. Especially the subtle gentleness permeating though. Unlike the more rational Matmos, The Books seem to actually like humans.
Minotaur Shock – Maritime (2005) & Amateur Dramatics (2008)
Another one of them pretties I haven’t had the privilege of knowing until recently, and another one of them musicians who’s music to me is almost palpable. The infectious mix he creates with the contrast of electronics and dynamic acoustic instruments is homely and alienating at the same time. One of those albums that work for every season, and could be played in the morning as well as during the dead of night. The way he lets sounds and instruments intact and breathe without too much trickery and programming in Maritime gives me a somewhat eerie yet warm and fuzzy feeling not much unlike Twin Peaks (nb: season 1!). The selfreleased Amateur Dramatics has a bit more kick to it, as if he thought ‘no more mister nice guy’. Like the darker side of Ratatat or the cozy danceable cousin of the band Fridge (the criminally unknown band Fridge that gave birth to Four Tet). Also the system he invented to let you pay per song, with a pricing system based on the amount of time, energy and frustration that went into all the individual songs, is flawed for being too taxing on the average music-consumer, but immensely sympathetic and recognizable for fellow musicians and producers in an age where music is rapidly becoming fastfood. With his latest album Orchard I couldn’t feel the magic, but did suspect an ‘okay-I’ll-give-you-your-damn-hit-album’ sentiment (and who of us doens’t feel like this once in a while?). To cut things short: very sympathetic and inspirational music from a very sympathetic guy who deserves all our money.
Wild Wild Ambient Boys – We Don’t Rock
The label esc.rec., and more precisely the man behind the curtains Harco Rutgers, is one of my big heroes of 2013. But next to taking the risk of putting up with me, esc.rec. had a LOT of great releases this year. To pick my favorite: We don’t rock. Seemingly serene, meek and laidback. It could be this is Hidde van Schie and Jeroen S. Rozendaal’s solution to- and salvation from the loudness war. Quiet is the new loud. And the more silent you become, the more you hear. And when you actually listen, you can hear more is going on in this record than on a Christmas day at Disneyland. Soundscapes and fieldrecordings fluently glide into very solid pop-songs, and surprises lurk at every corner. A very well rounded album, both as a statement ánd as a good listen-adventure that planted quite some seeds in my mind.
Microwolf – You are the Everything
It seems I grew more quiet by the end of the year, and got more and more interested in fieldrecordings and acoustic spaces. And if Wild Wild Ambient Boys planted the seeds, Microwolf made them blossom in full glory. Benjamin van Vliet made an absolute gem of an album with this. Fragments or homemade folksongs and fieldrecordings made into one 18-minutes sound journey. Wild, still, pristine and distilled. Put on your headphones and travel along with Microwolf.
Stromae – √
Let’s go in a completely different direction: For the mouthwatering contrast of his sharp lyrics with smart yet phat hit-seeking missile music, his intellect combined with him (ab)using his underdog position and physique to the fullest and his phenomenal sense of promotion and buzz Stromae absolutely belongs on this list. As a Dutchman I’m a tad jealous we have to do with De Jeugd van Tegenwoordig, while the Germans have Deichkind and the Belgians have Stromae. Already with ‘Alors on Danse’ in 2009 it was delicious to see it becoming a hit on Radio 538 and have breezer-gulping teens make out on this song, while being blissfully oblivious to the meaning of the song. √ kicks it up a notch, with the commercial circus in full swing yet Stromae doesn’t seem to be bothered. He knows what he’s doing and the music and lyrics doesn’t loose its edge, and even gets an extra smudge of swagger and grandeur. So we actually end up in the same territory where Dutch Uncles kicked off (who doesn’t like a list that prosaically goes full circle?). I particularly enjoy Papaoutai and its video, but the whole record is solid and even effectively uses DJ Tiesto- & Gigi d’Agostino-like pathos when necessary. This is a guy who deserves every critical and commercial acclaim he gets.
Other greatness to complete the 13:
• Rosa Ensemble – Landschap der Nederlandse Volksmuziek (deel 2)
Best life show I heard (saw) in a looooong time, brilliance + craftmanship + showmanship + not giving a damn =
• DJ Clap – Best Night Ever
Dance to THIS, n00bs
• Palmbomen – Night Flight Europa
Oj, this album had me both puzzling for weeks with tape-recorders and plugins, ánd break my plates
• Kettel – Ibb & Obb OST
Game soundtracks really are the concertos and symphonies of today
• Frietboer – Auntie Bass
Phatness distilled to a crisp
• AC Berkheimer – Equation of State
• Gluid – The Metamorphosis EP
• Human Pyramids – Planet Shhh!
• Paul Kalkenbrenner – Berlin Calling (2008)
• Brandt Bauer Frick – Miami
• Secret Chiefs 3 – Book of Souls
• Public Service Broadcasting – Inform Educate Entertain
• 12 songs to sing out loud during the dishes •
Being the songs that nestled themselves in my brain with their hooks and earworms, haunted me throughout the year and ended up being – with or without reason – my personal ‘hit singles’ of 2013. Making a good self-containing song is maybe even more difficult than a solid album. And albums are a dying breed in this internet-era of music-saturated people, so we’d better hone our hit-making skills.. (in order)
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Mechanical Duck – Die Liebe Farbe (Die Schöne Müllerin)
Where this one came from I don’t know, but it turned out to be THE biggest earworm of 2013. Not only me, but also my girl was infected. Singing it during the dishes, riding our bikes, walking in some random city, during consumation, this song stalked us wherever we went. We went to bed with it, and awoke with it sitting on a pillow grinning it’s big drugdealer smile. This dawdling re-interpretation of Franz Schubert’s whiny eternal-virgin complex is like a jazzy Portishead and will nestle itself in your brain, heart and soul. Forever. And you will be happy it did.
Palmbomen – Mustard (Night Flight Europa)
The whole album is a big inspirational pleasure (to hell with vinyl, tape FTW!), but you don’t want to know how much pleasure I got from yelping this song along. Preferably as out of tune way as possible, while doing drunken stompy dances. I actually broke some plates over this one.
Visitors – Wish upon a star (as yet unreleased)
Out of the blue Bertin van Vliet (mister Visitor himself) delivers an absurdly addictive track. A bassline I want to live in, and a melody that was stuck in my head for eternity. Lesson: less is more.
DJ Stonebridge – The Fear (Lily Allen Club remix)
Who needs depressive music, when happy music can do the same twice as effective? The original already was a massively well made and deliciously sadistic delivered song, but DJ Stonebridge brings out it’s most villainous sadistically tooth-glaze shattering side, gives it an extra-nose candy sheen and beats Stromae at his own game. I don’t care it wasn’t made in 2013, for it punched me in the face in 2013. When I heard this one, I KNEW it had to be part of the documentary ‘Chejv mej nü j angst‘, which Rieneke de Vries an I made about the hugely ambiguous subject of Roma youngsters in Slovakia. (mister Stonebridge and I will both act dumb when you ask us about it, but let’s just say; give him your money)
Maliko – Mirage (as yet unreleased)
This could just as well be on top of my Soundtrack list, but this is not a soundtrack of a movie or game, it is the soundtrack of the searing hot summer. All means are used to make this track as arid and feverishly torrid as possible. And at the same time being very listenable and making the new Boards of Canada seem pale in comparison. I listened to Mirage a LOT this year while doing weird little dances.
Mara & The Pillows – Thin Red Lines (Pinata Vandals Remix)
Powerballad! A real one. Let them instruments blare and vocal-chords rip. Not only did Mara make an infectious hit, but the Pinata Vandals got out it’s fullest potential. Celine Dion 2.0!
Plugs – Molecule Man (Self titled)
Another one not from 2013 but this deserves a place on this list: great band, great album, great songs, great video’s, but signed by a label that utterly fails at distribution for dummies and should be decapitated for incompetence. (please direct all your boorish rage here) Plugs self-titled album makes Atoms for Piece want to crawl in a corner out of shame they didn’t make this album, makes us remember why Gorillaz was such a good band and paves the way for Blond Redhead’s coronation. Oj, the whole album is a gem but this is one of those songs I want to be buried with..
Hunter Complex – Hours (Heat)
Just the starting notes alone make me want to forcefeed Adlib Gold soundcards to my computer. Arpeggio’s that make me long for a future filled with Bomfunk MC’s. Hours is a song that gives shoegaze a pair of long needed testicles, and finely walks the line between moist pathos and dry bleak ennui (haha, finally managed to cram that word somewhere). Why be a crying nerd when you can be a crying nerd with a golden cane in a big pimpin’ speedboat?
Ligeti – Hungarian Rock
2013 was a year filled with a rekindled personal interest in modernism and constructivism in general, and Hungary in specific. A way too late discovery of Venetian Snares’ masterpiece Rossz csillag alatt született (my early album ‘Man met pijp’ bearing an uncanny yet unrefined resemblance), Igorrr’s double whammy in the form of ‘Hallelujah‘, the death of Gorecki and travels abroad made it all fell into place. Hungarian Rock rocked my socks off. The title, the energy, the detached smirk. The version of Elisabeth Chojnacka, the hottest harpichordist ever. The insanely fun barrel organ version. And this version with drums which gives it a beautifully sad and detached edge. You may like the piece or not, but it has had a huge influence on me personally. My song ‘Navels’ ows a big debt to mofo Ligeti.
Daniel Smits – Synchronicity (unreleased)
Fellow Bosschenaar Daniel Smits has a knack for distilling a song to it’s bare components, and if you would compare music-making to gastronomy Daniel would be a sober sushi chef. Very tasty and savory, yet not one ingredient too many. Spartan and to the point, yet with a lot of depth. While song-making and being caught in too much fluff, I found myself returning to this song a lot and caught myself off guard humming it in the most surprising circumstances.
Bosmink – Time to walk the earth (unreleased)
Soundcloud is a great place to discover music in the making. It is like being in an incubator together with your colleagues (at least, before the big overhaul, but I will not bore you with that story). This song by Bosmink Bryce Albright struck a chord in the period after my fathers funeral, found it’s way onto my mp3-player, and has been there ever since. Simple and complex at the same time. I wish more guitar-players could take a lesson from it’s unruly non-guitar solo.
Camerata Trajectina – Sceiden, onverwilic leit (Liederen uit het Gruuthuuse manuscript)
It’s a popsong meets proto-metal, it’s dutch, it’s more than 600 years old. Oh, and it is beautiful. Singer-songwriters, please drop your nylon strings and doff the pedantic hats. Thís is the voice of Holland. (And, as you might have guessed, nót made in 2013)
Servitude: soundtracks 2013
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Being music and sound I could very much enjoy for the way it ties the rest in a production together, it’s insensitivity and craftmanship, and secretly makes me happy I chose the ‘winner’ of the senses. (Okay, smell conquers all but luckily as of yet nobody gained mastery over smell, for he or she would then be emperor of the galaxy.) (in order)
Kettel – Ibb & Obb
To be fair, I haven’t played all that much of this game, but throughout the year I listened the shit out of this soundtrack. Working in commission maybe brought out the best in Kettel, for this is athmospheric, coherent, balanced, and damn poppy. So much even, I lost interest in actually playing the game itself altogether. (which makes me doubt if this really ís a good soundtrack..)
Kazumi Totaka – Animal Crossing: New Leaf (7 PM, 10 PM)
Yep, I’m an utter Nintendo fanboy. And Animal Crossing is one of my favourites. The quirky simplicity of the music has been an influence for many years. It really ties everything in this game together, and the idea of giving every hour of the day it’s own music makes for a great concept-album. Personally I feel this is the first edition in the series that really improves upon the Gamecube original and the 7 PM & 10 PM tracks I can get lost in.
Hans Zimmer & Scott Hecker – Man of Steel
The movie wasn’t way as sucky as it had could have been, due to the depth of this soundtrack. It’s subtle use of motivs, the refreshing wide dynamic range and (let’s not forget) overall great inventive sound design. For I want to HEAR them superpowers. And using mp3 artifact blarble for space craft engines alone gets you a place on this list.
Ryo Nagamatsu – Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (Dark Palace)
The used guitar midi plugin SUCKED (and utterly killed the Kakariko village theme), but Ryo Nagamatsua knows when to keep it small and when to bring out the big guns. It’s smart and subtle use of re-occuring themes, re-takes and turn-arounds of existing themes, tasty mix of electronic and orchestral, delicious brass and mastery of minimalistic musical suspense through drones for the dungeon themes (who all fitted marvelously with the level design and visuals, and in particular the delicious Dark Palace theme – the TIMPANI dragged me into a huge craving for Tonke Dragt ) almost made me forget Koji Kondo. (heresy!)
Steve Price – Gravity
I’m a sucker for space-music, and a possibily for composers to finally let some interesting unconventional chord-progressions take the stage. All hail John Barry! But as we all know by now, space is an empty lonely and soundless vacuum. Not many movies actually manage to convey this part of spaceyness – ‘Moon’ was the first in years to come close. So seeing and hearing the trailer of ‘Gravity’ made me drool. This soundtrack indeed makes me feel space is a HUGE and empty place, dares to be stretched out and spacious at one time, and disorienting the next. What makes this a good soundtrack, but got this on the bottom of the list at the same time is the fact the soundtrack dares to be Hollywoodian enough to make it accessable enough for the big audience. (edit: that song in the end when Sandra reaches solid soil is because of the esotheric chanting actually almost cringeworthy enough to scrape the whole soundstrack of this list. Yet the sound department did a nice job with the nature soundscape there.)
Music for eye-people: video
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Ewan Jones Morris – Video for ‘Moped‘ by Pinkunoizu
The song is totally overruled by the video, so as a music-video it isn’t any good. But oei.. what a video! Objects! Colours!! Stuff moving!! With a good mix of simple means, precision and nonchalance here we have the essence of video. (and showing ‘Ok go’ how it is done)
Koji Aramaki & Julien Mier – Super Tropic Tramp
The song is great, full of details, delicious choice in sounds and instruments. But when you add the video it explodes! Wow. One of those rare occasions audio & video actually help eachother, not one being a vehicle for the other. 1 + 1 = 5. And the harmonica + triangles/circles at 1:05 is THE synaesthetic micro-orgasm of the year.