On his debut solo release, The Age Of Oddities, Dutch composer Rutger Hoedemaekers offers a cinematic record of glacial movement and emotive, ice-cool instrumentation. In some areas, The Age Of Oddities sounds like a traditional film score. Hoedemaekers has composed for film before, working closely with and alongside Jóhann Jóhannsson and Oscar-winner Hildur Guðnadóttir, and the influence of film composition seeps into the music, which is sleek, upright, and almost balletic. At the same time, Rutger pushes the boundaries through its electronic treatments, and The Age Of Oddities can be thought of as a progressive album.
Processed and indistinct vocals are left to clutter an instrumental score, scrambling the stave, its electronic voices issuing forth a mangled form of morse code. This is the point at which The Age Of Oddities diverts from the traditional, as strings and brass intersect with soft electronic elements. The Budapest Art Orchestra’s 23-piece string ensemble, conducted by Viktor Orri Árnason, is the life-blood of the music, as are vocals (Kira Kira, Else Torp, and Laura Jansen), horn (Morris Kliphuis), trombone (Hilary Jeffery), and violin (Una Sveinbjarnardóttir and Viktor Orri Árnason). Rutger himself contributes trumpet, piano, keyboard, and electronics, and the resulting music is awe-inspiring, towering, majestic.
Always composed and calm, the electronics fit perfectly with the more classical orchestration; one complements the other, instead of getting in the way. Amid soft and gentle interludes, one may find bombast and stormy undercurrents. All in all, The Age Of Oddities is a marvel, balancing the sensitive against the sharp, and the confusion of modern day life with the reassuring backbone of its strong melody.