For their 100th release, Amsterdam’s Moving Furniture Records invites listeners to take 100 minutes to save a life. 50 label artists and one guest teamed up to pen 25 tracks, each one a collaboration, each one 4 minutes long. Every 40 seconds, a person takes their own life. All proceeds to go the Dutch Suicide Prevention group 113.
This is not only music for a cause, but music by example. No one can go it alone. Martijn Pieck & Martijn Comes & Dante Boon lead the set off with the only three-person collaboration, a show of unity and strength. Ecclesiastes comes to mind: two are better than one; if either of them falls down, one can help the other up. Though one can be overpowered, two can defend themselves; a cord of three strands is not quickly broken. In this piece, the piano represents the clarity a person seeks through the fog of depression. Other pieces cast dark shadows, allowing light to peer around the edges and through the cracks. Every melody that breaks through the drone is like a rescue line. The collection sounds like a struggle, but leaves the door open for triumph.
One of the most important things for a helper to do is to acknowledge the pain of the sufferer. One of the worst is to put a happy sticker on the situation (“At least you have your health!”). The tone of the set is well-chosen, representing empathy, acknowledging the difficulty of life. “Always in delay, but yet we’re here” breaks down into components of sound, hoping to be reintegrated like portions of a soul. By the end comes a cacophony, a mental overload, a sensory explosion. Joe Wesseltoft & Miguel A. Garcia’s “Migratory Patterns” comes across as a construction site, density upon density, sound upon sound. There is no false cheer, only a reflection of perception. When stressed, one may often see no way out; the ears tune out or deflect any sign of hope. As a violin plays atop “Happenstance,” melody fights dissonance, form battles abstraction, clarity battles clouds.
10-15% of all teenagers are suffering from depression at this very moment. 20% will be affected at some point before adulthood. One million people die each year by suicide. We’ve become used to seeing COVID metrics, so when we learn that the global suicide rate is 16/100,000, we have a frame of reference. “Adliesau” contains whistling, not the happy whistling of dwarves, but the whistling of acclimation or inevitability. The track is haunted, the scrapes of the past rising to the surface, seeking exorcism. Could these artists have suffered from depression at one time, channeling the “creative fire?” If so, they write what they know. Here we find 51 artists who want to help, and behind them dozens more: not only label staff, but purchasers, counselors, friends. We haven’t heard from Bas van Huizen for years, and here he is, stepping forth with Ilia Belorukov.
The collection is heavy, even tracks such as “I Played With Everyone,” whose title sounds upbeat, but whose combination of stringed instrument and computerized signal sounds like the loneliness of someone casting their angst into the internet, hoping for a positive response. Online one may locate like-minded individuals, but also trolls, mockery, bullying. Thankfully, none of this music says, “Cheer up!” Instead, it says, your thoughts are safe with us, please hold on, we know others who thought there was no way out, and then there WAS a way out, and we want you to live.
Jeremy Young (Sontag Shogun) wants you to live. Rutger Zuydervelt (Machinefabriek) wants you to live. Giulio Aldinucci wants you to live. These are people you’ve encountered on our site before: musicians who when asked, “will you help save a life?” responded to the call, paired up with a buddy and recorded music while thinking about you, without even knowing your name.
So yes, this is the music of loneliness, addressed to those who are lonely. Jan Kleefstra, the album’s sole narrator, has always sounded world-weary, and on “Wolk” still does so; yet he also continues to go on, buoyed by Lasse Marhaug, who brings a bright background to Kleefstra’s tone poem, until everything collapses in a whirlwind, like that of Elijah, who after the wind, fire and storm heard a still, small voice, found food and was refreshed. Cyril Bondi & Rutger Zuydervelt incorporate wind chimes in their track, a sonic treasure that only arrives when there is wind. Sometimes we do not die; the cloak descends and dissolves, and through the process we are honed. We suspect many of the staffers at 113 once asked, “to be or not to be?” and now lead others through the same storm.
For drone fans, This is release MFR 100 is the motherload. The collaborations are fascinating, as many artists are joining forces for the first time. After a decade and a half, the label continues to showcase a wide variety of experimental music, and the fact that they’ve chosen to celebrate their milestone release not with fireworks, but with empathy, speaks highly of their character. Starting with #101, we’ll encourage our readers to support the label and their artists, but for today, we return to our opening invitation: let’s team up to save a life. (Richard Allen)