Richard Youngs/Frans de Waard/Peter Johan Nÿland
Onder/Stroom | Moving Furniture Records (LP/DL)
The title of this collaborative album means “sans electricity”, and refers to a series of performances that were staged without any electronic instruments. When this spate of events ended, the three artists on this record decided to go the opposite direction and use everything electrical at their disposal. The result isn’t as maximal as one would expect from this approach, but it has a free-flowing air of exuberance throughout the album. There is a palpable sense of joy in these recordings, a playful abandon that sounds very improvised.
Track titles seem to refer to who was doing what, for example the opener, fpr_i_fp_edit_EQed seems to suggest that all three were in control of the synths and samplers, then edited later by Frans and Peter. This first track is a repeating drum machine pattern filled with all sorts of synth feedback, getting louder and more obtrusive as the piece builds steam. But it stands quite alone in regards to style, as most of the other tracks forgo any sense of rhythm, instead reveling in abstract textures and layers of electronics. Some have looping melodies, such as fpr_iii_fp_edit which squiggles and writhes its way through its duration. Others simply enjoy the wayward and unpredictable weirdness of mangled samples, like the smashed and stretched voices on fpr_iii_track_3_remix_mk2.
There are also moments of calm here, with the simmering soft static and peripheral field recordings of fpr_vi. On this piece the raw hum of electricity is most present, even in a subtle state, which I found enjoyably enveloping. It sounds like the rooms tones had been picked up by the microphones and blended carefully with the output of the instruments.
The last three tracks on the album are remixes by each of the artists involved. Richard Youngs’ contribution is a cacophonous clattering of wailing synths and arpeggios that ascend and descend like out of control shepard tones. Frans de Waard’s remix is under his Freiband moniker, and creates a drone soundscape that to my ears is the standout track on the album. Slow and overlapping, like shifting sand dunes of sound, an exercise in restraint that really pays off. Finally, Peter Johan Nÿland closes the album with the most overtly ambient piece under his Norn alias, and coming on the heels of the Freiband track it makes perfect sense. Warm, analogue tones give way to heavier, more distorted drones that eventually dissolve into fizzles of that electricity that their project here has embraced so well.