Moarntiids / Molkedrippen
Piiptsjilling albums are like buses: you wait ages for one, then two come along at once. “Moarntiids” and “Molkedrippen” both took a meandering route on their way to release, with the former collecting material recorded during the Seeljocht residency on the Dutch island of Vlieland in 2011, and the latter emerging from studio sessions in early 2010. Both albums are well worth the wait. Superficially, the Piiptsjilling formula varies little from track to track, and seemingly from album to album, consisting of extended improvisations around a fixed tonal centre. However, listening to these two albums back-to-back makes the wealth of variations afforded by this approach more apparent.
“Moarntiids” opens with wind noise atop an exposed island hilltop, and the use of electronics and effects seems more pronounced on this album than on its twin. Likewise, the bluesy, rolling guitar trio that ushers in “Molkedrippen” is indicative of that album’s six-string focus. The pacing is never hurried, and yet the music surges forward with unstoppable circular force, the way a fathomless ocean can appear calm and tranquil on the surface. It could be said that Mariska Baars’ guitar playing is often more melody-driven than Romke Kleefstra’s angular, abstract shapes, but in truth they both slide into whatever tonal groove suits the atmosphere of the piece, their individual lines melting into the haze. When Rutger Zuydervelt adds a third guitar, things get even more hazy.
Through this fog Jan Kleefstra’s steady, measured spoken word delivery plots a course. A more daring and dangerous path through the rocks is navigated on “Molkedrippen”, with the Frisian poet’s normally calm, flat voice hissing snake-like through the gripping “Mûle fol snie”. Baars’ voice plays more of a role on “Moarntiids”, but for the most part hovers indeterminately between utterance and tonal colour, never quite song, but rarely simply background sound either — “Sûnder Wyn Nea Itselde” demonstrates this ambiguity well. The almost a cappella interweaving of these two voices at the end of “Molkedrippen” is a kind of microcosm of the overall Piiptsjilling sound: a line is troubled by, tossed, and finally overturned and dissolved by an unbound intensity.
The music made by these four artists sits comfortably alongside the sea of ambient drone recordings released over the last five years or so, and yet it remains utterly distinctive and compelling. It’s a simple formula, rarely meddled with, but the results are absorbing in their richness. While the colours are deeper and perhaps more muted than on more recent collaborations involving the Kleefstra brothers, the flat, hard, yet living landscape that is spoken into being by Jan’s poetry never seems far away. These two albums mark a very welcome return for Piiptsjilling — now then, new material from Baars’ much-missed solo project Soccer Committee would be icing on the cake…
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Cover painting by Mariska Baars