|Pieter Nooten — Surround Us (2012)|
Pieter Nooten — Surround Us
Location: Amsterdam, NH, Netherlands
Album release: May 28, 2012
Record Label: Rocket Girl
01. Ode 6:18
02. Anybody 4:45
03. An End 6:16
04. Soothing Dust 4:55
05. Drone 6:11
06. This World 4:45
07. Blue Wonder 4:46
08. Around Us 5:19
09. Secret Room 3:50
10. Romanz 5:03
11. Blue Square 7:24
12. Dutch Clouds 5:10
¶ Reviewed By: Malcolm Carter
¶ If ever there was a genre that’s likely to turn people away before they’ve even heard a sound, it’s that of ambient music. If you’re not in the right frame of mind, then the word ‘boring’ comes easily to mind. Although often unfairly classed as ambient, the work of Pieter Nooten can never be dismissed as boring.
¶ Dutch born Nooten first came to notice in the mid-eighties as part of Clan Of Xymox, releasing a clutch of albums on 4AD, which at the time seemed to be the perfect home for their atmospheric music. But Nooten’s best known work from this period is probably the collaboration he made with Michael Brook, ‘Sleeps With Fishes’, which was also released on 4AD and was labeled, quite rightly, as a “soundtrack to heaven” by one of the leading music weeklies back then. Since then Nooten has released a number of albums under his own name. His last album, 2010’s ‘Here is Why’ collected some very good reviews, and showed his skill as a producer for other artists.
¶ ‘Surround Us’, Nooten’s latest work, was produced completely using a Mac Book Pro and Midi keyboard, and no other instruments were used except for Lucas Stam’s impro. cello, which adds so much texture to the tracks it is featured on and really plays a major part on ‘Surround Us’.
¶ So, an ambient, electronic album has just got to sound soulless, devoid of any emotion and boring, hasn’t it? It’s hardly an album that you’d go out of your way to hear, but if you don’t then you are going to miss out on one of the most beautifully produced, sensitive and tuneful albums of the year.
¶ Nooten, unlike so many of his contemporaries, still composes songs that have a tune and it’s this, along with his ability to always keep his music interesting by using guest vocalists and not being afraid to experiment while never losing sight of a melody, that keeps him on top of this genre. In fact, while it can’t be denied that the sounds Nooten produces should be classed with the electronic/ambient brigade, he should almost be in a class of his own as he is one of the few ambient artists who will appeal to a much wider audience than his contemporaries will.
¶ The album opens with ‘Ode’, and the mournful sounds of Stam’s cello immediately shut out whatever is happening around you and introduces you slowly to Nooten’s sad, mysterious but strangely calming world. The sadness expressed by not only Stam’s cello but by the electronic sounds that Nooten produces surprisingly emits a feeling of warmth that is a feature of all the tracks on ‘Surround Us’.
¶ There are ‘almost’ straightforward pop songs on this album. ‘Anybody’, where lyricist Renee Stahl takes lead vocals, while not totally abandoning Nooten’s ambient leanings, is the type of song you just know that artists like Enya would love to have written. It’s also another of the factors that keep Nooten’s work a cut above the rest. Using the talents of outside vocalists doesn’t just add texture and other dimensions to his songs, it makes them more instantly accessible and attractive to those who would normally give ambient/electronica a wide berth.
¶ As beautiful as those guest vocalists can be though, it’s amazing that instrumentals such as ‘An End’ that were composed and produced on a computer have such warmth, depth and can actually convey emotion. Being instrumental it will be interpreted differently by each listener, but to these ears memories of melancholic rainy days always come to mind.
¶ Every track is worthy of mention. ‘This World’ is another song featuring vocals, this time by Susan Bauszat, which wouldn’t sound out of place on a later Cocteau Twins album. Again it’s a stunning piece of work and worth the price of the album alone.
Nooten can not be accused of writing the same song twice. Although this album is a mixture of instrumentals, vocals and spoken word tracks, there is not one song that sounds remotely similar to another. ‘Secret Room’, a spoken word piece, is particularly affecting, unsettling almost, with chilling vocals by ‘Lisa’ but even that doesn’t prepare you for another spoken word track, ‘Blue Square’.
¶ On this particular piece Nooten pulls out all the special effects and, while at times it does sail close to some of the more weird Yazoo album tracks, it’s another affecting piece of music which will hold your attention for all of its seven-plus minutes. Repetitive it may be but it’s also hauntingly addictive and soothing. You’ll hear nothing else like it this year. That’s for sure.
¶ ‘Surround Us’ is, in a word, a masterpiece. / Interview de Pieter Nooten in french: http://www.lesimmortels.com/blog/chronique-musicale/2806/2010/11/29/interview-de-pieter-nooten/ Clan of Xymox en 1985 : Pieter Nooten (en noir) et Anka Wolbert
(This photo is fortaken from original page: http://www.alterexa.com/tag/clan-of-xymox/
Exploring the possibilities of electronica and laptop composition even further; Pieter Nooten, one of the original members of Clan of Xymox and former collaborator with Michael Brook brings us the astounding acoustic and organic sounding 'Surround Us'.
¶ The album features gorgeous guest vocalists interspersed with beautiful, classical compositions.
¶ Far beyond the clichés of contemporary electronica, Nooten squeezes heart wrenching melancholia -beautifully executed, honest and intimate - out of the 'digital box', proving how good and deeply heartfelt home recorded electronica can sound, Nooten delivers a true masterpiece of lap top composition.
¶ In collaboration with improv cellist Lucas Stam, whose sensitive and intuitive playing technique cuts right through some of the most intense instrumentals; Nooten and Stam prove to be the pioneers of a long-expected period in contemporary music. A future that is NOT turning out clinical nu jazz or industrial noise fresh from the academies, neither mind numbing corporate pop, playable in any old mp3 format. Here we experience warmth and dynamics, features that seemed so long lost in music. ¶ 'Surround Us' brims with vitality, humanity, pain, passion and sweet, sweet melancholia
Pieter is more influenced by"the depth and beauty of the simplest Bach fugue than by most modern pop".
Current line-up: Pieter Nooten (laptop, keyboards, vocals), Lucas Stam (cello). Live VJ: Miryam Chachmany
http://rocketgirl.co.uk/label/release/rgirl85 Live in Amsterdam 2010 Press:
¶ “ Instead of relying on repetition and improvisation to provide structure and depth, Nooten draws as much as he can from his compositions without either becoming too indulgent or overworking the tunes, and none of the tracks on 'Surround Us' are much longer than five minutes. The drumming and percussion provide a carefully modulated metallic backline that harks back to Xymox's late 80s heyday and the overall effect is a near mesmeric collision of modern composition and Darkwave atmospherics. The end results of Nooten's endeavours make for a near compelling hour or so of music, spoken word performances and audio experimentation, and while pulling all of this together might seem something of a tall order for many present day modern composers Pieter Nooten somehow makes it all sound relatively effortless, creating ambience with a definedly audible edge, and if like me your collection has until now lacked anything Xymox related, you may find yourself wondering exactly why. JG” — JG, tastyfanzine
¶ “Nooten was one of the founding (and most important and influential) members of the Dutch ground breaking synth-goth-ethereal-wave band called Clan of Xymox. Pieter also co-released an album called Sleeps with Fishes with Michael Brooke that many people have justly described a soundtrack to Heaven. Now Pieter Nooten brings us an absolutely stunning album called Here is Why that cleverly blends like elements to that of his first release Sleeps with Fishes, yet also brilliantly incorporating slices of contemporary lounge and sonic ambient music. What is amazing is that Pieter composed the entire album on a Mac Book Pro computer!! While this may at first disappoint some...I simply ask you to listen!! Although subtle, Here is Why is anything but boring or tame in actuality, it is just about the most absorbing, intriguing and beautiful assemblage of songs to be released on any given single album release to date in many years.” — idem, positivelastaction
|Pieter Nooten — Surround Us (2012)|