Fean | Fean
Moving Furniture Records (CD/DL)
The collective of seven came together as an artist-in-residence project in a church in the Frysian village, Katlyk. The collaboration resulted in an amorphous sound that ranges from squeaky noise to echo chambers filled with vocal murmurs, and so much in between. The players behind these nine tracks are:
Mariska Baars: vocals
Joachim Badenhorst: clarinet, bass clarinet, saxophone, church organ
Sylvain Chauveau: tuned percussion, radio
Annelies Monseré: church organ, keyboard, vocals
Jan Kleefstra: words, vocals
Romke Kleefstra: guitars, bass, effects
Rutger Zuydervelt: electronics
“The FEAN project gets its inspiration from the ecological decay of peatland in the Dutch province Friesland and in other parts of Europe. Agriculture and peat extraction are threatening the landscape severely and with long term consequences.” This self-titled fusion of sound minds was mixed/edited by Zuydervelt (Machinefabriek) and mastered by Jos Smolders. But what does it sound like?
Opening with a sensitive flow of the forlorn, quiet horns and general circumstance. The atmosphere is gentle, light spirits floating, muted corners. A deep male voice emerges, in hushed tones alongside a whistling wind, and another female voice nicely pairs well with the harmony on Peaoffer (peace offering). The ambient hues are layered nicely, with a variety of effects that float from one ear to another, Chauveau’s brilliantly considerate percussion, dodging and burning its way throughout. There’s a laid-back feel to these otherwise complex, luminous layers. Some textured, some airy and free, the combination has a sense of hope for the changes upon our collective Earth.
Ketlik II, at its snail pace, allows each of Badenhorst’s toots to shine bright amid an otherwise restrained drone. The feeling of suspension is alive and well here, broken only by the fiery feedback of Oardeis which sounds like a welder working away on a tiny mechanism as a swirling, balloon-like horn plays in the background. The static increases and dissipates in an atonal fusion of effects. Once things quiet down some the sparse rat-a-tat sounds like a broken water heater as a voice emerges once more (four of these nine tracks boast short lyrics).
The track Lytse Poel (small pond) has a traditional feel to it, likely produced by the familiar keys of a church organ and scaling sax. This is a mysteriously fluid jazz, yet has a folky ‘court’ feel about it. At the midpoint a layer of static comes with a spoken word, “deep in the wild shadow of the doctor’s house, you let the concrete sink as silent as the word.” The text as abstract as the musical theme here, fantastical. They surely are weaving a bit of contemporary folklore as they emit “soon the wind will come with open hands to catch your joy. To give you a verse, to pull the tent closed.” It offers an uncertain narrative, an open ending.
Their focus on our mis/understanding of climate change and gentrification on the land and our general devolvement of socialization of our virtual age is emboldened by their symphonic subtleties. In the home stretch they offer Ketlik IV and Ketlik V, both under three minutes each. A mysterious jangling leads to reverb and then to an assortment of broken percussive elements, all tripping over each other at short ratio. On the latter the organ and sax chords mimic bagpipes, but in essence offer an insular yet psychedelic harmony. They are playing with breadth yet still there is this sense of tension as if they are holding on tightly to their personal space.
Along comes the concluding track, Wetterreid (water reed) and the tension seems to wash away as this opens brighter than any other piece here. A drifting hope seems to linger in this work that blends new classical with experimental electronic music. Our ears are flooded with airy bellows and lengthy held organ notes and what seems like optical drone. “The ground just a passage, the air just spent breath.” This is no blase Hallmark card you are opening to a pat phrase, rather this record has an astounding lyrical pulse, and a lingering sense of mystery.