Dutch Sounds From Beyond Pt. 1

Dutch music. Not usually a word combination that conjures up the wildest expectations. But dig a little deeper, and you’ll be in for many surprises. From ambient, rhythmic workouts to poetic synthwave, the Dutch musical landscape has produced many strange sounds that had flown under the radar. When SSFB published a piece on the tribal excursions of composer Jasper van ‘t Hof recently, the Dutch name that greeted us had similarly caught us off guard. While it’s in our nature to avert nationalistic tendencies on a broader societal level, for now I suggest we go full Dutch and embrace our nationality with pride. No cheese, windmills and other clichés this time. Enter Dutch Sounds From Beyond.

Inspired by the massive and musically diverse response after someone posted Danny Boy’s “Diskomix” to the strange music from beyond Facebook group, accompanied by the question: “hello, i am lookin for dutch disco/wavy/weird stuff like dis’’ – editor-in-chief Lounes Doulache and I went digging deep into the pits and outskirts of the Dutch music scene. It didn’t take long before we noticed that we had already compiled far too many tracks to present in one article. The idea for Dutch Sounds From Beyond – a recurring article series – was born. We hope you will enjoy part one, where I will be presenting Enno Velthuys’ ambient sounds, Ton Lebbink’s lyrical magic, Slagerij van Kampen & Paleis van Boem’s percussionist masterclasses, Nasmak’s maverick wave approaches, Backstreet Backlash Records’ no-nonsense industrialism and Gerard Stokkink’s one-off brilliance.

Danny Boy – “Diskomix” (1983)

Enno Velthuys

Enno Velthuys was an illusive ambient producer, having released six cassettes in the 80s. Being a Dutch contemporary of Brian Eno and the Berlin School of Klaus Schulze around that time, his harmonious approach to ambient music is simultaneously soothing and melancholic. An absolute tearjerker is “Back to Catherine” on the EP Landscapes in Thin Air, where you couldn’t help but wonder who Catherine was, and sympathized with the emotional struggles Velthuys was experiencing while crafting this masterpiece. Not much is known about Velthuys, except that he was the son of Max Velthuys, a famous author of children’s books (Kikker) and that he had a harsh history as psychiatric patient. The internet tells us that Velthuys had sadly passed away in 2009. Although the cassettes are hard to find, his music is widely available online for listening. Another work from Velthuys that I would like to highlight is the track “To Dance With You” on the EP Different Places. This track starts with a danceable slow synth rhythm, but once the first pads quickly enter the song, the mood instantly shifts to a melodramatic state – popping up a scene in my head of a lonesome somebody dancing the waltz with an imaginary partner, on a rainy day, in an old pre-industrial landhouse. Maybe, that non-existent friend was Catherine.

Enno Velthuys – “Back to Catherine” (1985)

Enno Velthuys – “To Dance With You” (1987) 

Ton Lebbink

Ton Lebbink was the former drummer of Amsterdam punk band turned art collective Mecano and doorman at Paradiso. Influenced by Dutch poets like Rotterdam cult figure Jules Deelder and Cees Buddingh, Lebbink mixes his absurdist spoken word with synthwave and experimental soundscapes on these two albums Luchtkastelen and Hongerwinter. Two tracks I would like to highlight are “Voetbalknieën” and “Kom Bij De Machine” – literally translated as football knees and come to the machine, respectively. On the first track we hear how his poetic mastermind enumerates Dutch folk sayings that incorporate body parts over an uplifting and raw instrumental. On the latter, his voice is more sparse, letting the brooding machine sounds rumble along, resulting in a fatalistic listening experience. Having a track named after the famous Kalverstraat and releasing the single Wat Een Klasse with the red-white stripes and logo of football club Ajax on the cover instead of his own name – Ton Lebbink should be regarded as one of Amsterdam’s legends indeed.

Ton Lebbink – “Voetbalknieën” (1981)

Ton Lebbink – “Kom Bij De Machine” (1981)

Slagerij van Kampen

Slagerij van Kampen is a Dutch percussion band founded in 1982 by Mies Wilbrink and Willem van Kruijsdijk. The cult group is still active, and when viewing videos of their recent performances filled with spectacular show elements, it is intriguing to discover that their earlier work is of such experimental nature. Their second LP Out of of the Doldrums is outstanding, which, as written on their website, was the first album in the world to be fully recorded with revolutionary MIDI sampling technology. From this LP, “Wakarimasen” is a high-class percussionist trick shot, which sounds like an early version of tracks that currently wreck dancefloors more than ever via the likes of Jan Schulte et al. Another sublime output is A Long Walk on the Short Pier. While most of their work is stripped down and skeletal, this album produced by Robert Musso (who also worked with Miles Davis and Tom Waits) includes various guest instrumentalists giving it a cinematic and moody, jazzy feel.

Slagerij van Kampen – “Wakarimasen” (1987)

Slagerij van Kampen  – A Long Walk on the Short Pier (1989)

Paleis van Boem

Since we are on a percussion note, there is another album, by Paleis van Boem, which I would like to share with you. The duo consisting of Martin Vonk and Jaap de Weijer have a successful career as composers for Dutch cinema, producing the OST for e.g. Karakter, Van God Los and TBS. They have only released one album in the 80s called Mowgli Goes Kaka. On the track “Hvalfisk”, one’s mind quickly becomes aware of its surroundings due to its sinister jungle atmosphere. “1001 Days” throws the tempo up a notch. Drums galore.

Paleis Van Boem – “Hvalfisk” (1985)

Paleis Van Boem – “1001 Days” (1985)

Nasmak

Nasmak was an experimental new wave group active from 1978 till 1984 from the small town of Nuenen. Their album Nasmak Plus Instruments/Instruments Plus Nasmak (a collab with Truus de Groot’s +Instruments outfit) was heralded by legendary BBC radio deejay John Peel as one of Europe’s best in years. They were also the first Dutchies ever invited to do a Peel Session. In between their vocal and guitar-heavy output some absolute stunners can be found – which should appeal to many of this magazine’s readers. Among them is the track “Womb” from the more breezy and colorful 1983 album Silhouette – a wonderful ethereal trip filled with Eastern influenced melodies and sparse airy drums. Another track is “Origins and Whereabouts 3”, released on the cassette Indecent Exposure 5 & 6 (Only This Day And 77 Others) in 1982. The echoing effects tingling throughout this jam give it an addictive cosmic tint – one for the night owls. Their cassettes contain an enormous amount of tracks and I have yet to listen to them all. Leave us with a comment if you find other odd gems in between!

Nasmak – “Womb” (1983)

Nasmak – “Origins and whereabouts 3” (1982)

Backstreet Backlash Records

Backstreet Backlash Records was a Rotterdam record label and shop ran by Peter Graute and Martin v.d. Leer. The two recorded their rough gems in their own recording space, Backlash Studio – a studio that had provided us with some hard hitters throughout the labels’ short 3-year life span (1979-1982). Highly sought-after in their catalogue is the 12’’ Cor Corora by Nyra Bakiga. Almost 21 minutes, this is the type of track you’d want to hear while on a dark dancefloor around 6AM. The echoey intro, spanning 7 minutes, bursts into a haunting industrial groove that grips you and does not let go. Let’s hope and keep our eyes peeled for a repress! Since the majority of their small catalogue leans in a more noisy and drone-like direction, another standout track is their final release, “Paris Tribe” by Another, which embodies a more lurking vibe by combining EBM with dub elements. Beware of the danger zone folks.

Nyra Bakiga – “Cor Corora” (1981)

Another – “Paris Tribe” (1982)

Gerard Stokkink

To finish, here are two beautiful tracks by Gerard Stokkink – “Yellow Turtles” and “Endless Cruise” from the experimental album Shusaku & Dormu Dance Theater – which reminds us of Balearic classics such as Joan Bibiloni’s “Sa Fosca”. Gerard released another less experimental version of “Yellow Turtles” on the album Arena under the name Oblique. He went on to produce for the Dutch television show Kinderen voor Kinderen, although other works by him had not been able to live up to the musical heights reached by his previous tracks. Still, these will warm up your winter days while you allow yourself to drift away.

Gerard Stokkink – “Yellow Turtles” (1984)

Gerard Stokkink – “Endless Cruise” (1984)

I hope you enjoyed the music. Do keep your eyes peeled for part two of Dutch Sounds From Beyond. Special thanks to Orpheu the Wizard for the tips that added the icing to the cake. You can view the original Facebook thread to discover more Dutch music here and view the articles about Jasper van ‘t Hof and the history of the strange music from beyond group by founder George Hysteric on our website here and here.