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New Reinier van Houdt on Elsewhere


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When is a double album not a double album? That question is raised by the latest pair of Elsewhere releases from the Rotterdam-based composer and pianist Reinier van Houdt. The two come in separate sleeves, have different, unconnected titles, different cover art and were recorded months apart, although they both feature van Houdt alone. The two albums have catalogue numbers 021-1 and 021-2 which indicate they are two halves of a double album; Elsewhere's website has a photograph of the two sleeves side by side as a double album not two singles, listing the two together as "Drift Nowhere Past / The Adventure of Sleep (2 CD)...."

Reinier van Houdt
Drift Nowhere Past

This disc comprises the six pieces that van Houdt created in Rotterdam for the online festival AMPLIFY 2000: quarantine, commissioned by the Erstwhile label's proprietor Jon Abbey (who is also the husband of Elsewhere proprietor Yuko Zama—the two are jointly credited as producers of this album). His six pieces made van Houdt the most prolific contributor to the festival, no-one else having contributed more than three. In addition to its title, each piece here carries the date when it was first recorded—the twenty-second of each month from March to August 2020.

In the sleeve notes, Van Houdt writes, "I've made these pieces from what I played, listened to, recorded, played back, read, watched, heard, or imagined, each during one specific day in the quarantine of 2020." As that quote suggests, each of them is a unique, multi-faceted piece with its own personality, all of them sounding as if they were created by the same individual. The ingredients which van Houdt combined together included piano, voices singing and/or speaking, recordings of various other sounds, musical or otherwise. So, there is plenty of beautiful piano music here, but a great deal more too.

With playing times ranging from nearly eight to over twenty-one minutes—seventy-four minutes altogether—the tracks are as varied as those durations, and command attention from first note to last. For those who heard the festival pieces over the months they were broadcast—or for those who missed them altogether—having them all together, on disc, in sound remastered by Taku Unami, is a godsend; they work well as a coherent album, one which conjures up memories of the 2020 Covid lockdown.

Reinier van Houdt
The Adventure of Sleep

The Adventure of Sleep (great title, eh?) comprises four pieces which van Houdt created from May 2021 to February 2022, during the subsequent period of lockdown. They were created with the intention of pairing them with the six pieces on Drift Nowhere Past. That succeeded, as the music here is similar enough to that discussed above to make the two discs compatible. Yuko Zama is listed as this disc's sole producer. These tracks exhibit the same range of ingredients, with some additional ones not heard before; if anything, the soundscapes here are slightly fuller than before.

The Adventure of Sleep's four tracks run for a total of thirty-six minutes, which may explain the double album conundrum with which we began... That playing time is more akin to that of an EP than an LP, so maybe it was decided to release the two as one double album rather than two singles, one long, one short. However, such niceties are irrelevant once one has listened to van Houdt's music on both discs. Given their stylistic similarities, it seems sensible and logical that the two discs form a double album. Unsurprisingly, the Covid lockdown spawned many albums created by lone individuals working in isolation; when the dust has settled, a high proportion of these recordings are likely to be judged as highly successful. On this evidence, van Houdt's will be among them.

Tracks and Personnel

Drift Nowhere Past

Tracks: Drift Nowhere Past (22 March 2020); Friction Sleep Maze (22 April 2020); Horizon Without Traveller (22 May 2020); Skies Waves Trails (22 June 2020); Bardo for Cor (22 July 2020); Mystery of Erasure (22 August 2020).

Personnel: Reinier van Houdt: composer, performer, recorder, mixer.

The Adventure of Sleep

Tracks: A Stitch in Time; Parallel Spaces; -void-; A Fold.

Personnel: Reinier van Houdt: composer, performer, recorder, mixer.

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