Bridges have shaped our history for centuries. Where rivers were forded, settlements were built, and trading routes were formed, and those have remained in place to this date. Even where a bridge outlives its useful life, crumbling and derelict, we rebuild them, or supplement them with bigger, parallel crossings. Innovation is in form, far more than location (consider the example of London, where Tower Bridge has remained the most easterly crossing for over 100 years). The rivers between the worlds of field recordings, noise, jazz and electronic music have long since been forded, but there is still space for the forward thinking sonic architect to construct something in a new form. One such person is the Dutch artist Machinefabriek, who has himself straddled these divides via his burgeoning discography in recent years.
Machinefabriek, aka Rutger Zuyderfelt, has co-curated this bridge-themed compilation with visual artist Gerco Hiddink, bringing together eight musicians (four pairings of two) across its four lavishly decorated sides, lovely spinning zoetropes all. Each pairing were given recordings made on location at four different bridges in the Netherlands to which they were to react independently, and the results were then mixed together. They were, if you like, building the same bridge, but from opposite ends, only able to guess at what was going on at the other side, and hoping they would meet in the middle. And with a little luck, some sound creative instinct, and a bit of help in the mixing, they have pulled it off: the constructions are not just stable enough to bear weight, but enjoyable to cross. The musicians recruited into this project have reacted in interesting, different and complementary ways to the source materials.
Not that the recordings always make it easy. It wasn’t quite so tough for Jim Denley (who has played with the likes of John Butcher and Ikue Mori) and Esper Reinerstsen (Keith Rowe, Toshimaru Nakamura), their extended saxophone techniques mingling airily with birdsong under the Bergerslagbrook. Likewise for Steven Hess and Erik Carlsson (bass drum and crotales), and Mats Gustafsson and Nate Wooley (saxophone and trumpet), who interact well with the rumbling of cars passing overhead on the Waal and Rhine respectively. However, the bridge does little more than cast shadows across the contributions of percussionists Burkhard Beins and Jon Mueller, it is felt more as a resonance, with cymbals and bells ringing out into the space. Strangely, it is on this track that the bridge’s presence is most keenly felt, as if the musicians themselves (and us, the listeners) are in a dark, echoing chamber under a drawbridge which crosses the Netterden Channel.
Bridges is available from Machinefabriek via Bandcamp.