Rutger Zuydervelt is no trained drummer, so inevitably the album of drum solos released under his Machinefabriek moniker is a different kettle of fish from your average drum kit-based recording. The opening hi-hat taps seem to follow the standard template, but it’s a ruse: the taps fade out, and the pattern of reversed ‘swooshes’ gradually loses its rhythmic coherence and collapses in on itself. Anyone hoping for a John Bonham-esque barrage of perfectly-timed theatrical chaos will have to look elsewhere.
Rhythm isn’t dispensed with entirely, but it takes a back seat to other aspects of the standard drum kit that are rarely considered, particularly pitch and timbre. Computer-based editing and effects are used to modify the sounds in various ways, turning single hits into long drone notes or shimmering atmospheres. For the most part, however, the acoustic qualities of the sound sources — especially the rich harmonics — are retained. The result is that the drum kit is transferred out of its traditional background role of ‘keeping time’ to realise much more wide-reaching creative goals, while still sounding (mostly) recognisable as a drum kit.
It’s true that percussion as a category of instrument has hardly been exempt from the great expansion of techniques and approaches that followed in the wake of recording and editing technologies becoming widely available and affordable. However, the expanded sonic palette presented here by Zuydervelt is the result of a much more focused set of experimentations, and retains a cohesion and an expressive familiarity that is sometimes lacking from the hours of unidentifiable, contextless buzzing and humming that makes up so much of electroacoustic music today. The artist’s favouring of simple but well-crafted structures and his ear for an interesting sound is just as important here as his choice of instrument: rather than let the music dissolve into anonymous background (an aesthetic strategy that can be powerful and significant in its own right), Zuydervelt edits and structures his sounds into forms that move and speak with increasing clarity. Fine work.
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