Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Surprieze - Zeer Oude Klanken en Heel Nieuwe Geluiden,LP,1972,Netherlands

“I prefer to make music with the least distraction, or even in the dark. In your ultimate freedom you can achieve a heightened state of awareness and become a receptor of natural influences. You are then a chunk of nature, and therefore your music also becomes a part of nature. The ‘All’...” - Eddy van der Meer, 3-string guitarist (translated from the original liner notes)
The road that led to van der Meer’s quizzical masterpiece began in his hometown of Breda, The Netherlands in 1966 when he formed his first band, The Slack Gang. Fronting them on vocals and harmonica, their material was initially blues-based but after years of gigging and various promises of success and recording contracts coming to nought, all slackness began to constrict and by 1970 the group started to gravitate so heavily to more pop-oriented stylings, van der Meer quit. Although The Slack Gang soldiered on, they eventually folded two years later without a single recording committed to posterity.
Meanwhile, van der Meer carried on. He switched instrumentation and began experimenting with the electric guitar by stripping it down to three strings, playing it exclusively through a tape delayed echo and constructing distended instrumentals that hovered into an combination located between the exotic droning of ragas, the trance-like rhythms of Turkish taxims and with all the power of one channel of “Metal Machine Music” stripped of distortion and replaced with an equal setting of reverb all at once... and combined into a single echoed wall of noise set to staggered AND staggering proportions. Using the echo itself as a sympathetic and labyrinthine foil to his ever-swelling riffing, van der Meer would mix into his sonic undertowing more fragile outings, adjusting the lapse of echo as it suited the mood and even throw in some wailing blues that allowed him to reunite with his first love, harmonica -- Sometimes, with enough echo to make one almighty blare of the harp seem like a veritable fleet of rolling stock.
He was soon joined by ex-Slack Gang violinist Jacques van Poppel in his new musical venture, which he named Surprieze. It was a far less pop and more improvisational affair than anything he had been engaged in previously, and a main influence on this shift was reflected by van der Meer’s highest period of activity coinciding with local Provadya events. A synthesis of the Provohappenings and Rock Music combined with lightshows, films, magicians and theatre in an overall multi-media happening, Provadya clubs were scattered throughout The Netherlands, and the one located in Breda boasted a small scene centered on the Academy of Art and the Theatre De Trapkes. In this circus-like scene, van der Meer would perform either solo or in conjunction with The Green Eye, a loose duo comprised of ex-Slack Gang violinist van Poppel, drummer Adri Heeren and whoever else happened to be on the bill that evening. At one event where a continuous 25 minute set was broadcast live on the Dutch VPRO Vrijdag radio programme and according to one account, van der Meer’s 3-stringed guitar free-forms joined by bizarre vocal contributions of clowns from a traveling circus was so anarchic the station banned them from any future appearances. It was in these sort of loose and high spirited environments that van der Meer’s self-styled “confrontation with spontaneity” gained ground and expanded between the years of 1970 to 1972. And after much labouring over his album and obsessed over its track listing, possibilities and copious liner notes, he concluded work on the privately-pressed album and it was released in the final weeks of 1972.
“Zeer Oude Klanken En Heel Nieuwe Geluiden” (‘Very Old Tones And Very New Sounds’) is as stark and expressionistically as its gestured white lines and spirals cut into its deathless black front cover. Recorded live with no overdubs, no bass, almost no drums and absolutely no commercial potential whatsoever, the album’s design was comprised of two black and white prints as front and back cover, placed over a blank sleeve and housed in a plastic sleeve to greater effect than its jerry-built facade would immediately suggest: although ‘surprieze’ is the Dutch word for ‘surprise’, it has a specific meaning in The Netherlands during St. Nicolas celebrations in early December, where one custom is to exchange gifts packed in a ‘surprieze,’ or a satiric gift made out of paper mache that houses the ‘real’ present within. And “Zeer Oude Klanken...” was every bit an audio surprieze for it did not immediately reveal its true ‘gift’ until after the opening classical piece and two blues numbers passed to allow the rest of the album course immediately into successively weirder terrain comprised of anarchic and highly stuporific, hypnotic improvisations that came bundled with relentless waves of echoed-drenched guitar and improvised vocals of the freest ya-ya variety.
The album begins with the reel-to-reel being turned on, catching the thump of a chair and someone saying “shut up” to hush all the chatter for recording has now commenced to capture the puzzling classical guitar and violin instrumental piece “Klasziek (Clas-sick).” It’s enticing, serene...and entirely unlike the rest of the record in its stylistically orthodox manner. Jack van Poppel’s violin is sad and reserved while Eddie gently plucks Spanish acoustic. But with the entry of the elongated, run-on sentence “Zoen-Zoen” (“Kiss-Kiss”) the mood is all change direct into a super-slow, super-quiet and highly-echoed 3-string guitar suite of no beginning or end. The prelude is just 3-string guitar and echo machine, and once it falls away van der Meer’s high pitched vocals beseech and waver from within notes that collide and whirl in a blizzard of audio after-images as echoed runs up the neck crumble and resound, hang in the air and fall away: breaking up and crumbling above an undercurrent of slight, skittering guitar underneath. In two places the track fades out altogether with the crudest of editing -- only to grind back with untoward force to break the trance it’s been building so patiently for countless minutes. Van der Meer balances a peaceful precision with improvisation, but never do its spellbinding qualities waver or fall away until it finally grinds to a tape-sped halt -- followed by distant kissy noises that close this enigmatic and quietly vibrating piece.
Following up is a duo of blues “Just The Blues” and “Eddie’s Harpblues” that are harshly wailed as if to break the previous spell, and although they usher side one out on a distinctly non-meditative note, side two opens as though in spacey compromise with the free-blues number, “Zero.” Van der Meer here has reduced his performance to just vocals and harmonica through a massive echo, backed by muted tom-toms that resound in the distance in a “Mona” meets “Set The Controls For The Heart of the Sun” groove. The 90-second instrumental “In Galop” (‘At A Gallop’) quickly breaks down to freak out, with van der Meer on guitar wobbling through echo machine and accompanied for the last time by drummer Heeren and acts as the perfect outro to “Zero”...or for that matter: the intro to the following piece, the 19-minute epic “Lazarus” which closes the album. This is the absolute centerpiece of the album that highlights van der Meer’s improvisational 3-string guitar, accompanied on occasional parping from longhair Pιrig Mahet on bladder flute, flute and wordless vocal vibings. “Lazarus” means ‘drunk’ but the track is a far more hypnotic and brutal an assault than any mere alcohol-based bender and approaching Dutch O-Mind. Shifting between eastern modalities,’66 Velvet Underground “Loop” drone-scaping assault and the skittering qualities of Danelectro-era Syd Barrett of the same year, it breaks off into sudden forays into expressionistic sheets of noise and continually builds walls of echoed drones -- accompanied here and there by the trills of freak bladder reedsmanship, van der Meer burns onward and unleashes itself over and over against near-incomprehensible vocals that although for all their drowned-out by the ceaseless barrage, do state their emotions, if not their literal meanings, clearly. Churning and building up and swelling wave after wave, “Lazarus” achieves qualities of stunning unyielding guitar noise that reflect off and into further polyrhythms while maintaining a weighty togetherness at all times. As Mahet moaning and vocally vibing along with the drone wave when the primary guitar signal falls away, its echoed half-life is still sympathetically reverberating in the background as though the sound itself is a freeform flβneur that seeks to explore, evoke and evolve all at once. And at its rhythmic heart is an unflagging centre that is subconsciously adhered to at all times and it never tips off balance even when the bladder woodwinding steps down and out of the picture. And van der Meer just continues with his plowing of his singular sonic furrow, hitting every right note, noise and fluttering, echoey vibe like an implausible crossing across a bridge of bone dry stepping stones assembled across a raging river. And even as the guitar starts nosing down to an extended forced landing with low, rumbling and jagged runs, it continually repositions itself; finally scuttled as final flute trills send it off into a silent place of calm.
Afterword:Unfortunately, the very first review of “Veer Oude Klanken En Heel Nieuwe Geluiden” that appeared was so negative that it had regrettable consequences. When it first appeared in the popular Dutch youth magazine Aloha, the reviewer boorishly suggested (among other things better left unsaid) that “Eddy van der Meer’s ego trip is a direct insult to every listener.” Despite subsequent reviews that gave positive notice to his D.I.Y. handiwork, after a scant amount of his albums sold and one abortive attempt with the newly-formed and Anglicised Surprise, van der Meer took all remaining copies of his album and cycled seventy miles to the coastal city of Scheveningen where he promptly jettisoned them into the North Sea. And with that single offering, Surprieze were all but resigned into the black void of anonymity forever...or so it seemed: For luckily, copies survived in personal collections throughout The Netherlands, and one wound up providing the Grey Past label the means to reissue it in the early years of the twenty-first century...where it has finally garnered a respect and appreciation befitting of such a singular achievement.
Reviewed by The Seth ManFrom Julian Cope's Head Heritage
One of the most obscure Dutch albums is without a doubt the LP by Surprieze, titled: Zeer oude klanken en heel nieuwe geluiden (Very old sounds and completely new sounds), performed and arranged by Ed van der Meer de Walcheren. Eddie in 1995: In september 1966, I started up the band Slack Gang in Breda. We played blues, inspirated by John Lee Hooker, Howling Wolf, Sonny Boy Wiliamson etc. Little by little we changed into a kind of cult-band, playing music which we called freeblues, long tracks, influenced by bands like Capt.Beefheart. In 1967 we performed in The Hague at the Holland Blues Festivbal in the famous club De Drie Stoepen, where we played together with acts like Indiscrimination and the Leo Unger Band.During those days there was something going on in Breda, under the influence of the Academy of Art and the semi-anarchal Theatre De Trapkes where mostly jazz and freeform Theatre was performed. This was the place wheer we held our Provadya-evenings with Slack Gang. The music of that band grew more into the pop-direction and I left the band. I continued playing blues and doing some solo-performances. The LP Surprieze dates from that time (1973). It contains a.o. Turkish music blues, free-jazz and electronic sounds.
In 1974 Eddie tried it one more time. He called the band Surprise and it consisted, next to Eddie, of Kees van Veldhuizen (organ), Roel Bisschop (drums) and Hans de Vos (bass guitar). This outfit didn't last very long and they ended in 1975.
Source: Private Dutch (Jean Jöbses)
Music is insane noise ACID basement madness music, some laid back tunes and even a few r&b tunes but the track 'Lazarus' is an unequalled evil exprience filled with noise, eastern drone guitarlicks played on a three string guitar of which one is used as drone, and weird folkinstruments and a guy saying 'Lazarus' in a real menacing tone.

get this masterpiece here


Ryan said...

masterpiece is right. thanks a million for this one

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