Many of Machinefabriek’s greatest works are long-form pieces, and the 34-minute Crumble is Rutger Zuydervelt’s finest release since last year’s Sneeuwstorm. We recall that album because it seems that a piece of that work has snuck into this one: the howl & crunch of a digital storm. As field recordings are credited as part of the composition, we wouldn’t be surprised to learn that these sound samples were caught at the same time.
Tempest aside, this is a different and unpredictable work, tumbling from segment to segment like a wild symphony. Anne Bakker contributes violin and viola and Edita Karkoscha (Nausica) lyrical voice, although neither element grows prominent until the storm has subsided. Until then, take shelter. The winds are too loud for any voice to be heard, the swirling electronics a camouflage for the strings. Yet as soon as the maelstrom secedes, one realizes that Bakker has been there all along; and once she establishes a foothold, Karkoscha follows her guided cord. The tone turns from harsh to sweet, the danger batted away. But then it keeps coming: relentless, uncowed.
What exactly is crumbling? It may be a foothold on sanity, a world view, a relationship, a concept of composition. The cover suggests degraded data, time abrading the edges of code. When read in linear fashion, the white lines begin to break down almost immediately, eventually becoming echoes of their former selves. Even when Karkoscha sings directly, her words are stolen away, swallowed by surges of strings. In the pantheon of Machinefabriek collaborations, she operates as the opposite of Kleefstra, enigmatic in vocal abstraction. Her presence is more important than her presentation, as her original renditions are looped, churned and otherwise modified.
Bakker’s work is mournful and dramatic in equal turns. Something is falling apart, and her strings provide both warning and elegy. As the track begins to wind down, she provides an opposing force: building rather than breaking down. It’s a hopeful finale, backed by literal and metaphorical melting: an attitude, a snowdrift, a heart. Then a plunge into near-silence, allowing room for contemplation. Look how far we have come. Consider all that has crumbled. Yet still we stand. (Richard Allen)