Tucked away in a corner of a residential area in The Hague is Studio Loos, a workspace, laboratory, and public presentation space for electroacoustic music, sound art, and audio art. Their monthly Ephémère series, curated by sound artist Marie Guilleray, features performances from a wide range of artists from across Europe and beyond, and has quickly earned a reputation as one of the best places to go to hear new music and sound art in The Netherlands. This month’s event also happened to be the first leg of a tour bringing together Celer and Machinefabriek with Kleefstra|Bakker|Kleefstra, with additional performances by Otso Lahdeoja and the trio Govaert/de Joode/Stadhouders.
First up were Kleefstra|Bakker|Kleefstra, whose new album “Griis” received a big Fluid thumbs-up recently. The guitars of Anne-Chris Bakker and Romke Kleefstra supplied a rolling, lonely sea on which Jan Kleefstra’s poetry could drift. Improvising off material from “Griis”, the trio spent the whole half-hour set teetering on the brink, the hum and throb of guitars never quite splintering into a Heckeresque wall of noise, the rising and falling of speech never quite breaking into song. Someone once defined meekness as ‘strength under perfect control’, and this is what Kleefstra|Bakker|Kleefstra’s performance had in spades. I could have listened to this beautiful tension for a lot longer.
Next up was guitarist, composer and music researcher Otso Lahdeoja with a piece he composed for augmented guitar. Lahdeoja managed to produce an impressive range of sounds from this instrument, yet the music itself seemed somewhat disorganised and lacking in structure. By contrast, I was riveted by the way Govaert, de Joode and Stadhouders’s take on intense, fast-paced improvised free jazz would coalesce into a sudden moment of fragile coherence and agreement, before melting once more into a frenzy. The level of concentration required to produce and maintain this rapidly shifting kaleidoscope of musicality seemed immense, as was the concentration required to listen to it. I’m not familiar enough with the genre to judge how well this acoustic trio of drums, bass and guitar compare with their peers, but I enjoyed trying to hack my own convoluted path through their musical undergrowth.
An added bonus of the evening’s debut live collaboration between Celer and Machinefabriek was the presence of Marco Douma, the video artist responsible for the two videos that accompany the duo’s recent 7-inch “Maastunnel/Mt. Mitake”. Douma’s work is often concerned with the moment in which an image at the outer limit of legibility passes over into abstractness. His slowly dissolving and reforming organic scenes kept me in a constant state of uncertainty regarding the nature of what I was seeing, and provided a perfect visual counterpart to the meeting of Celer’s distant warm glows with Machinefabriek’s clicks, crackles, and tones.
Tearing my eyes away from the video projection provided another image of the two musicians’ complementarity: Celer poised in stillness over his laptop, Machinefabriek hopping birdlike from fader to fader. Ephemerality and timelessness meets specificity, immediacy, and the substance of the actually there: what Walter Benjamin referred to as a dialectical image, and the rest of us call a photograph. A wonderful performance to round off a diverse and intriguing evening – The Hague is lucky to have such a platform for discovering exciting and adventurous new music.