Seeljocht live at Le Guess Who Festival
Posted In: Greg Haines, Jan and Romke Kleefstra, Le Guess Who? Festival, Mariska Baars, Nils Frahm, Peter and Heather Woods Broderick, Rutger Zuydervelt, Seeljocht, Sytze Pruiksma
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Tilting on the edge of nowhere: a sea wind flattens the tufts of grass and blows sandy dust from dune to dune. Flatness, sky. Out on the water a lone fishing trawler crawls across the horizon; gulls circle and soar. Leave the small village behind and after a few minutes’ walk you are in a hinterland of rocks, trees and intertidal zones. The air force use a nearby beach for target practice, although there is not much here to shoot at.
When you live in one of the world’s most densely populated countries, one that throughout the centuries has resorted to reclaiming land from the sea, any remaining wilderness is to be treasured. The organisers of the Into The Great Wide Open festival surely had this thought in the back of their minds when they invited a group of musicians and video artists to take part in a residency on the remote Dutch island of Vlieland, in the province of Friesland. The list of musicians alone reads something like a modern classical/electroacoustic ‘supergroup’: Nils Frahm, Greg Haines, Peter and Heather Woods Broderick, Sytze Pruiksma, Jan and Romke Kleefstra, Rutger Zuydervelt (aka Machinefabriek) and Mariska Baars (aka Soccer Committee). Together with the video wizards 33 ?, these artists spent a week exploring, recording, discussing, sharing ideas, and breathing in the isolated atmosphere of Vlieland. The project was given the name ‘Seeljocht’, Frisian for ‘Sea light’.
And what light. After returning to the island to perform in the Into The Great Wide Open festival, the collective were reunited first in Leeuwarden, then once more in Utrecht, where they played the converted church hall venue of the Vredenburg Leeuwenbergh. To say that witnesses to this final concert were carried away to that distant windswept island would perhaps be stretching the imagination a little too thin; better to suggest that the music and visuals created a third, transitional space, somewhere in between the hall full of attentive listeners and Vlieland’s sandy dunes. Jan Kleefstra’s poetry, delivered in soft, unhurried monotone, conveyed simultaneous impressions of remoteness, steadfastness and yearning, even though I understood only a few words. Sytze Pruiksma, on the other hand, was an electrifying, thundering force, conjuring up storms, gales and surging waves from his timpani, cymbals and other percussion instruments, before rolling back to the gentle hiss of sand and the chirrup of birdsong. The visual effects wrought by 33 1/3 were at times breathtaking to watch: dunes turned into dancing piano keys and blocks of stone, split into streams of fiery light, and transformed into a playground for a green-clad human performer.
The engagement of musicians and artists with natural landscapes and environments is hardly a new approach, but in each instance particular cultural and historical perspectives struggle to make themselves known. In the case of Seeljocht, the current scarcity of uninhabited, uncultivated land, juxtaposed with centuries of living on the edge of an unstable, sea-threatened limit, formed a backstory that inflected and coloured perceptions of the music and visuals. For just over an hour in an old church hall in Utrecht, that story became the remote and silent centre of a crowded, bustling nation.
- Nathan Thomas for Fluid Radio