Machinefabriek – Engel

Machinefabriek - Engel, female dancer stood on male dancer's shoulders against a pale yellow background

Dutch artist Rutger Zuydervelt, aka Machinefabriek, is a prolific composer of dance scores, frequently working with the choreographer Iván Pérez. His latest score “Engel” was made to accompany a dance by Marta Alstadsæter and Kim-Jomi Fischer, following on from their brief collaboration “As Much As It Is Worth” earlier in the year. Immediately striking is how different this music is from the Pérez scores, eschewing both the frantic pulsating rhythms of works like “Attention, the doors are closing!” and the shifting, unstable ground of the more recent “BECOMING”. In their place are quietness, wobbly show tunes, and a pounding drum solo from Paal Nilssen-Love. Without having seen the dances it’s difficult to be sure, but from the scores it would seem that Alstadsæter and Fischer move in a very different way to Pérez, which is exactly what you’d hope to be able to hear in a good score.

For much of the album the emphasis seems to be on providing a sort of sonic atmosphere for the dance to take place within, rather than on taking the lead with a driving melody or a pulsating rhythm. There are faint rumbles and chimes, taps and creaks, brief bursts of radio static, whistles and hisses of air. The pacing is slow and the volume low, and when melodic refrains gradually fade in they are shifting in character. Later on the intensity picks up, with low sliding buzzes and a three-note melodic refrain leading to big wide shimmering chords in ‘Walking’, before things settle down for a 6/8 ballad in ‘Not Last’. Nilssen-Love’s solo moves from thumping and pounding to shifting and back again, before an old-fashioned melody, strangely twisted and wrung, winds its way towards the end of the album.

I sometimes get the impression that on “Engel” Zuydervelt was given a bit more freedom to indulge in the inventive idiosyncrasies that mark his own music than with other dance scores, with quirky touches like the wobbly show tune on ‘Waltzing’ or the cameo by Nilssen-Love perhaps being more familiar to fans of classic Machinefabriek work than the more focused and directed collaborations with Pérez. That’s not to say that “Engel” is necessarily ‘better’ or ‘worse’ as a pure listening experience; what it does show is that Zuydervelt doesn’t do dance scores by numbers, but rather is sensitive to the intentions and aesthetic choices of the choreographers he is composing for. As for us at home, “Engel” is another worthy entry into his discography, blending some classic Machinefabriek moves with quietly intriguing atmospheres and a handful of shimmering melodies.

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Kim Jomi-Fischer on Vimeo (includes short trailer for “Engel”)

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