It’s been a while since we’ve heard from Netherlands composer Bas van Huizen. Zwelg marks a triumphant return after a period of silence. While the milk of drone remains, the artist’s ambient tendencies have risen to the top like cream. Zwelg may be tagged “noise”, but it’s a soft, centralized noise, a distant hum surrounded by wisps and whorls. Those expecting another album like Plooibaars may be caught off guard, but the new work exudes a different sort of appeal.
The key track is “白い手紙” (“White Letter”), which enlists the talents of Japanese artists Noah and the K. Originally conceived as an instrumental track, the piece now cups a tender monologue in its pillowed hand. “I’m waiting for you at the other side of that hill”, the narrator gently intones, “at the end of the sky, broken from the beginning”. The worldweary delivery invites comparison to the Frisian monologues of Jan Kleefstra. Light percussion and voice box appear at the end, gauging the distance between hearts and hills, the real and the robotic. One can glean a commentary on the modern modes of communication: is a letter less contemplative in digital form? Half an hour of instrumental bliss follows the final word: a soundtrack to the journey of one and the patience of another.
The abrasion present on previous releases seems scrubbed from this release, although traces appear from time to time. It’s not clear whether the artist has mellowed or whether this project presents his softer side. Fortunately, his background in noise and drone informs even the quieter tracks. Without the occasional crunch, the 21-minute title track might come across as unobtrusive; instead, it reveals itself as a cabinet of curiosities. As the sonic waves build, recede, and build again, one imagines a secret side awakening, stretching, throwing back the blinds. By integrating halves, Bas van Huizen has demonstrated a deeper side of his persona. These new hues add light to his shadow and in so doing, illuminate his prior darkness. (Richard Allen)