From time to time, established artists are tempted to see if they can make it under a different name. Sadly, new releases can get buried without the name brand recognition. We wouldn’t want this to happen to Bas van Huizen. Last month, we reviewed what we thought was the artist’s latest album, only to learn that he had another, even better album on the market: ショウガナイ, recorded as Shoganai. This album collects his “noisier works”, and is more in line of what we expected to hear on Zwelg.
From the very first sounds, which imitate a rusty, amplified swing, we know we are in Bas van Huizen territory. The opening track swiftly falls over a bridge into a field of brambles and broken wood, checks for a pulse, then lumbers on. This is the deep end of drone, the end which most artists avoid, the dumpster into which all the good stuff gets dropped: out-of-tune orchestras, barrel scrapings, broken shovels and sheared bolts. The resulting sound is oppressive, thick, and counter-intuitively, soothing. The din is constant and inescapable. One can drown in this pudding, or one can float. Unexpected melodies abound, rubbed like sores from the skins of songs. So much chaos is present that the morass becomes order. When played, the album consumes every nearby sound, making it seem like the drone is the only sound present. When the tracks increase in volume (for example, track three), their timbre threatens to consume even rational thought.
One might ask, “why would I want such a thing?” ショウガナイ is a reflection of the modern mind, overwhelmed by fear, anxiety, and disillusionment. But it’s also a controlled substance. One can play it to drown out one’s thoughts, or to score them. One can view it as an enemy or a confidante. This isn’t easy listening, but it’s concise: a statement of non-belief that grows into a statement of belief by virtue of its power. To paraphrase: before the music plays, we are already overwhelmed. As the music plays, the music overwhelms. We learn that we can control the amount to which we feel overwhelmed by playing the music, and regain at least psychologically a modicum of control.
While the album is best played as a whole, the sixth track is a standout, due to the clear presence of strings and a pulse; as is the seventh, stuffed to the brim with the sounds of wind and rain. If nature seems aligned against the listener, modified nature seems an apt response: the artist is not in control of the elements, but he is in control of their sounds. The world is a vast and untamed place, as is the human mind. By amplifying aural anxiety, Shoganai brings it to heel. (Richard Allen)