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Ruben Machtelinckx: Sualme

Mark Sullivan By

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As a local resident, Belgian musician Ruben Machtelinckx was asked to contribute to Kunst en Zwalm (Art and Zwalm) 2019, a contemporary art festival that happens every two years in Zwalm, a small village on the Belgian countryside. Machtelinckx settled on a sound diary format, taking a digital recorder and instruments he could bring with him by bicycle. The recordings he made include field recordings, improvisations and compositions: they are presented without any overdubs or edits.

"Mijnmwerker I" opens with the sound of birdsong, followed by woodblocks and banjo. The sound of a passing train—which Machtelinckx says he had never noticed before— inspires more active playing, so the whole thing is like a duet between musician and natural sounds. Brief snippets of environmental sounds are interspersed with music throughout the program. "Vistrap" is a short piece consisting mostly of the sound of running water (with a bit of wood block). The two "Low Organ" tracks took place in a church, with Thomas Jillings (Machtelinckx's partner in the band Linus) improvising on church organ along with the banjo.

"Koers" is full of local color: a bit of recorded folk music, a barking dog, traffic noise, and distant church bells. "Short Sentence" revisits a tune from the Ruben Machtelinckx/Frederik Leroux album When The Shade Is Stretched (Aspen Edities, 2017), but this time with the banjo answered by Thomas Jillings' organ instead of the baritone guitar used on the original. Machtelinckx's solo pieces on that album are the closest to the music here. The use of woodblocks recalls his playing on Poor Isa's Let's Drink The Sea And Dance (Aspen Edities, 2019).

Banjo is the dominant voice on the album, but "Dewy" is a lovely guitar solo. "Circular" has a similar feeling, this time on banjo, played chord-melody style. "Lieve Vrouwke" and "Op De Purperen Hei" both feature local singers, singing a cappella. "Mijnwerker II" concludes the program as it began, outdoors with birdsong, banjo and woodblocks. The album is released in a very limited 200-copy cassette edition (plus download code), the first release of the Edition Edities imprint Et Alia. The package has a charming, handmade look, very much in keeping with the intimate, local aspect of the music. Perhaps the most personal music Machtelinckx has made, but also the most inviting.

Track Listing: Mijnmwerker I; Vistrap; Low Organ I; Koers; Peloton; Krekels; Lieve Vrouwke; Short Sentence; Low Organ II; Paarden; Dewy; Rozebeke; Circular; Op De Purperen Hei; Mijnwerker II.

Personnel: Ruben Machtelinckx: banjo, guitar, woodblocks; Thomas Jillings: church organ.

Title: Sualme | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Aspen Edities

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