Wisps is the perfect name for this mini-album. Wisps of Anne Bakker‘s voice, violin and viola gather and disperse throughout the release. On the cover, Wytske van der Veen uses scrap paper to create disconnected collages. Machinefabriek weaves his own wisps into the breaches and gaps; like the will-o’-the-wisp (ghost light) of folklore, the sounds beckon, flicker and fade. Another word for the effect is hinkypunk, which the duo may save for the title of a future collaboration.
The dual connotation of the friar’s lantern is exposed in intentionally “eerie” passages, especially evident in the twin chapters of “Ruimte.” The word means space, and one can imagine the bog, the mist and the dancing sprites. Swamp creatures (save for DC Comics’ Swamp Thing) are seldom benign. And yet, the dance of these bioluminescent creatures also symbolizes the pursuit of a dream, doomed or not. In the amusingly titled “Speling” (which actually means room), piano and brass make the bed into which Bakker’s voice is tucked.
Wisps is a worthy follow-up to 2020’s Oehoe.. Machinefabriek calls Bakker’s improvised puzzle pieces a “gold mine,” and glues them into place. The timbre is slightly different, as a sense of fun seeps into every piece, even those that also seem foreboding. This is often the case with folk tales, passed down not only because they frighten and warn, but because they intrigue and thrill.
Phantasms, dreams and optical illusions share an ephemeral nature, and tend to leave behind a residue: a flash, a memory, an afterimage. Wisps preserves the pieces while inviting listeners to reconnect the dots, to color outside the lines, to fill in the blanks. Whose hand is tossing the ball? What does the bottom of the chair look like? Where does this violin passage lead? In “Folklore,” all elements coalesce, producing the album’s denouement. Bakker sings atop a series of strums – an aural illusion – after which the strings rise from serenade to a pair of cinematic peaks. “Mijmer” (“Musing”) forms the epilogue, including what seem to be repetitions of the word “why.” Akin to chasing a sprite, the listener may be hearing things, the mind seeking a plausible explanation. Either way, when the music stops, the notes continue to flutter in the mind. (Richard Allen)