Rutger Zuydervelt

Rutger Zuydervelt - Sneeustorm, abstract two-tone grey evoking a landscape blurred by snowflakes


“Sneeuwstorm” (“Snowstorm”, in English) is a half-hour epic of a release, appearing under Dutch musician Rutger Zuydervelt’s own name rather than his better-known Machinefabriek moniker. As I understand it, Zuydervelt sent some sketches to saxophonists Otto Kokke and Colin Webster, who recorded improvisations responding to the material. All of these fragments were then edited together into a finished piece, with additional samples and electric guitar added by Zuydervelt.

The basic macro-level structure of “Sneeuwstorm” is quite simple: start off really quiet, gradually build into a howling blizzard of cacophony, then drop suddenly to near-silence again; repeat. This process unfolds several times throughout the piece, and yet each time it happens, the timbral and textural details are substantially different. Sometimes the unprocessed voices of the saxophones are clearly distinguished from Zuydervelt’s subtle electronics and electric guitar, but at other points there is ambiguity as to the source of the sounds heard: precise, intricate details are revealed, only to be swept up in a disorienting flurry of tones. “Sneeuwstorm” thus plays with what might be called visibility, with the wide territory lying between the poles clear/unclear and distinct/indistinct. It is in this sense that the piece most closely resembles its eponymous weather event.

Sometimes I get the sense that the music strays a little too close to expressive dramatics for my taste, tipping more towards a sort of theatrical representation (what do I feel when I encounter a snowstorm?) than a becoming-snowstorm (what becomes-snowstorm beyond all human responses?). Whenever I do, however, the little details bring me back: the totally unexpected use of a particular snatch of field recording, for example, or the wonderful static swishes near the end. This is a fine and ambitious work from Mr. Zuydervelt, who despite his immense and much-lauded discography seems intent on pushing himself forward towards ever-greater challenges; it’s also a nice introduction to the work of Kokke and Webster.

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