Audiotoop: little rouge
[i] years will have to run out sometime

december 12, 2009.

It has been more than three months ago (but therefore certainly not less noteworthy now) that the good people of the Nijmegen Extrapool descended upon the Amsterdam OCCII for a weekend of sonic Extra-vaganza. It was on an evening and night that the floodgates of heaven opened up real good above the Dutch capital (- "[Am] Let it rain, [F] Let it rain, [C/E Gsus G] Open the flood gates of heaven ..." -), on the friday of september 3rd, and the - somewhat dryer, luckily - saturday of september the 4th.

The second of these two days saw an edition of Extrapool's Tape-Treff series, which are sort of 'tape-only events': in Occii we were offered an evening of performances in which magnetic tape, played back in its guise as compact cassette or - less fluttery and thin - reel-to-reel tape, played a leading role.

Like in the installation (picture below) that was contributed by Dutch artist Steven Vinkenoog: a circle of five vintage guitars and five vintage tape machines, with five tape loops each of which was 'scratching' around one of the guitar's metal strings. The friction of the tape moving against the metal of the strings (and their - weak - magnetization induced by the guitar's pick-ups) will cause some sort of signal to be written/accumulated onto each of the tape loops, which of course simultaneously also will wear because of their rubbing around the string.


Steven himself was not present that evening, and Extrapool's Quinten Dierick only had the installation run a couple of times; but that was in demonstration mode so to say, and never longer than a few minutes. Thus it was not really possible to get an idea of how Steven's installation would sonically develop over time - and eventually 'self-destruct', which obviously would make for a dramatic high point of sorts.

But looking good it did.

In hindsight I have been wondering about the condition of the strings. I actually hope these were old, worn and rusty. First because I like the image of 'rust upon rust' (|) which corresponds to the rubbing of the tape loops around the strings; and second, because with old and worn strings it might just happen that some of the strings break before the tape loops ... (And then, shouldn't the guitars be amplified as well? I don't seem to remember that they were. Do hope there'll be a later opportunity to witness it run for a prolonged period of time ...)

dje dmdn belch dj dmdn

That saturday evening in Occii turned into a fun tape fair. (Well, I mean, given the money, and had the price been right, I just might have bought it, ... ;-) ...) Sounds and atmosphere shifted from the abstract (Staplerfahrer) via waving and wettish aqua-telepathic ambient (communicating with the intelligent small gregarious toothed whales that we all love so dearly, in Lieven Martens' Dolphins into the Future) to Quinten Diedrick's Belchkitchen's explosive and pretty physical drums 'n' tape set, all strung together by the evening's host Kofabek and an unflappable DMDN's cj-ing ...

As a virtuosic master in the programming and realization of a whole range of interesting fringe-art serial projects Extrapool seems unsurpassed. Apart from the saturday Tape-Treff, there was the friday, which saw editions in their series Auditoop, and in yet another one entitled Brombron.

In the Brombron series two or more (sound) artists/musicians come to Nijmegen, for the realization of a collaborative project that until then they did not have the time or equipment to realize. The results of this 'getting together' is presented live, and often also released as a wonderfully packaged CD ... Friday at Occii saw a Brombron meeting of Rutger Zuydervelt (better known as Machinefabriek) and Italian drummer/percussio-electronist Andrea Belfi.


There were three issues in the ongoing series of Audiotoop: a series of sound plays, of Hörspiele, of radio graphs; not first recorded and then broadcast though, but brought live, on stage, as a piece of audio theatre. The description is clear. Yet vague enough to possibly include many and varied types and approaches to sonic creation. Thus while D.K. Himmelbach de Vries' short 'n' noisy culinary experimentation situated itself somewhere between the cabaret-esque and a practical joke, the duo Kunst oder Unfall (Augusta and Kalle Laar) combined their sound table theatre and Augusta's poetry in a context that I guess for most viewers will have read Kunst rather than Unfall ... (You should take some time to roam Kalle's Temporary Soundmuseum web site, it'll be worth your while!)


Btw, the Lohengrin rowing boat picture that you see above as a projected backdrop for the German duo's performance put me under a spell. It had me dreaming of the shore of a deep blue sunny summer lake, where I sat in the green grass smiling at a braided Mädel counting snowdrops. And suddenly - while outside a heavy rain kept beating down upon Occii - with the sounds of toys, whiffs of electronics, Kalle's old cracky vinyls and Augusta's voice, came mingled those of distant alpine Almglocken and church bells, getting louder and louder; then a yodel began to install and prepare itself, getting to the verge of wrestling its way up from somewhere deep inside of me, ready to burst wide open...
But then finally it did not.
Was that because the image changed?
I have yet to find out ...

Then to the third of that friday evening's audiotoops.
That was mine.

My original idea for the evening had been to base this 'extra audio play' on a demo recording that I had (re-)stumbled upon some time before: a multiplay recording of a Presse Papier song that I must have written in 1980. I found it (back) while listening to a (non-indexed) cassette from those days. What struck me most about it, was not so much the song, but the degradation of the recording's sound quality over the period of 30 years that have passed since it was originally put on there. There was little left to hear but a blurry low bump, covered in a brouillard of mid-frequency hiss. Pretty much all of the upper middle and high end of the spectrum had been lost; the few 'brighter moments' in the sound that had remained came towards the end of the recording, when my singing voices the song's conclusion: "She used a little rouge".

Of course I did remember the song.
(I remember each and every one of them.)
This one came from one of the several song writing enterprises that were left 'almost but not quite finished' at the time that all over Europe, quite suddenly, the sound & the fury of primeval post-punk days waned ( * ).

"A little Rouge" was part of an untitled series of late Presse Papier songs with a (female) protagonist caught in the clutches of some bad case of Angst (à la Fassbinder, Tarkovski, etc.; so deeply rooted in the Zeitgeist back then). It was an upbeat to the series' chapter in which the girl realizes that at heart her reflex of bringing a little smear of rouge to her cheeks whenever she gets nervous, is not so different from her mother's habit of crossing herself in moments of perceived evil and sudden fright ...

little rouge

This in turn made me think of the part of You, a bed, the sea, that has Eloïse going on about the clock in her kitchen showing '2 2 2 2' all the time. I am convinced that my 1994 Eloise crossed herself several times while recording her rave.

As the girl in my 1980s song, though, she would have used a little rouge.

next - Audiotoop: little rouge [ii]

notes __ ::
(*) A decline that (I think I mentioned this before) Martijn Voorvelt in his 1998 thesis "British Post-punk Experimental Pop (1977-1983)" explicitly links to the effects of Thatcherism. He's obviously right. In a way, this then does make Margaret Thatcher a major factor in the eventual coming about as well as of the final form of the audiotoop that I made for Extrapool. It is therefore that hereby I do dedicate the work to this former prime minister of the United Kingdom. [ ^ ]

tags: Extrapool, audiotoop, Amsterdam, tape

# .340.

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