The lathe-cut Ontrafelde tonen launches the brand-new Vintermusik label in style; it’s hard to imagine a stronger start. In 2012, Machinefabriek is already making a play to become the next jukebox hero, the king of the 45. Ontrafelde tonen follows hot on the heels of an excellent collaboration with Celer, and is a worthy heir to that 7″ release. (For more on that record, please check our Ambient section.)
The two tracks on Ontrafelde tonen (plus a bonus track for those who make the purchase) were introduced to the world in a highly original way: as loudspeaker loops set in “custom-made wooden birdhouses” in a festival’s public square. As such, they must have been ignored by many; festival attendees are not necessarily interested in listening to tiny boxes nailed to trees. But in this capacity, these birdhouses serve as a metaphor for all the music we hold dear, music that only a select few may embrace, but with unbridled passion. I once happened upon such an installation in Reykjavik: music emanating from a manhole cover on the city’s main street in the middle of the Airwaves festival. No one else seemed to hear it, and none of the shopkeepers knew anything about it, but there it was: something beautiful, playing for whoever cared to notice. The same thing holds true not only for Ontrafelde tonen, but for lesser-known artists and labels everywhere. Beauty is all around us, if only we would pause and listen.
A poetic visitor to Machinefabriek’s Soundcloud page refers to “Ontrafelde tonen 2” as fastened voices, an absolutely perfect description. This piece features a series of choral loops that rise and fall, dart and stream, surge and retreat, even flow backwards. The effect is both calming and exciting – calming in the sense of offering peace, exciting in the sense of offering intrigue. One can even imagine a tiny mixed choir of djinn and huldevolk, hiding just inside the wooden box, backs to the wall, holding splinters as spears.
“Ontrafelde 3” is completely different, but complimentary, beginning with the roar of a subway train, echoed by a voice that speeds by just as quickly. If the first piece is an offer of serenity, the second is a reminder of daily agitation: the rush and rumble, creak and crash of competing interests, tasks, and allegiances. Together the two form a yin and yang of modern life, a sickness and a salve, a blight and a balm. Which of these we choose to listen to, or whether we listen at all, will reflect our character and may determine the composition of our days. (Richard Allen)