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. 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 – Part 2.
Hello all, welcome to another edition of Dutch Sounds From Beyond. While the previous piece showcased a wide array of music that were produced on Dutch soil but were otherwise not connected musically, I felt that a second piece ought to have a sort of theme to it. Many popped up, but eventually my eyes fell on early 90s ambient, ambient techno and trancey techno made by Dutch techno producers (or something along that line). The idea for this article popped up through stumbling upon amazing music that was made quite close to my bed actually – the works of Utrecht outfit Human Beings. When I was first scrolling through Discogs, I was surprised to see that I knew Allert Aalders – 1/2 of Human Beings and one of the guys behind the massive Sonar Traffic studio in Utrecht. I spoke to him and asked him about his vision and the zeitgeist of the scene around that time.
“When we heard all this amazing music and experienced the parties that came with it, I thought: finally; electronic music liked not just by me! We’ve come a long way since then, obviously. We never thought of ourselves as deejays; that was not our thing. We were nerds. We brought our whole studio to the stage and were influenced just as much by Detroit techno as well as Tangerine Dream, New Wave etc. We set out to do our own thing. Around the same time in England some guys called Underworld or Orbital had taken a similar approach. Safe to say they actually made it big time. We lived off our gigs for about two years. Our intention was to make interesting music from our hearts while providing a solid beat for people to dance to. Utrecht was not Amsterdam, it still isn’t and that’s a good thing. I’ve always considered our place as a chilled-out version of the fashion-police-ruled Dam.”
His production partner however, is sadly deceased. “I miss my mate Bert who died in 2005. Our cooperation was unique. Irreplaceable. We were part of a scene but were never really accepted because we weren’t techno purists.’’ May he rest in peace; the music is there to live on forever and here’s to hoping it gets the extra attention it deserves.
The sense of futurism, freedom and escapism breathe through their productions. Allert tells us: “at that time it seemed everything was possible. Age plays a part in this but I feel music these days is so formalized; the first question will always be how big of a crowd you will pull. With Human Beings we played 4 sold-out shows at Paradiso, Amsterdam. Not because we were on the bill; just because it was a good party where we were one of the acts.’’
Furthermore, I asked for some tips to be featured in this article; cheers to that. While checking out related releases I came up with a whole list of similar artists around those years. This article shall therefore be filled with timeless, rich and layered analog music with pads to fly on. Let the machines speak!
For me it’s all about For The Time Being on the Deviate label. The beautiful picture and track titles really fit the feels this album channels. As if one is floating through some extraterrestrial desert and unlocking codes to enter purple glowing ruins. The colour palettes really flicker through these tracks. My personal highlight is without question the track ‘’Currents’’ – starting out with a looming soundscape that ultimately lights up via crystal arpeggios. All tracks can stand on their own ground really. Whether it’s the dubby relaxation mode on “Seaquence”, the adventures on “Vermillion Sands” or the escalating energy on “The Pattern”… one word – brilliant. Dope dancefloor productions have been coming out of their minds as well. A personal favourite is the track “Rising Sun”. Check the Human Beings bandcamp page for all the tunes – and if you’re into modular excursions check out Allert’s recent activities too.
Moonwater combines IDM and ambient elements into this timeless 1993 masterpiece, released under Maarten van de Vleuten’s alias In-Existence. The modernist cover art gives it a very New Age feel, and the music seems surely inspired by it. It is probably the most experimental work he has put out, next to the drones and noise on his late-80s The Noise Architect project, which was revived a few years ago. Contrastingly, as Major Malfunction he put out the rawest of the rawest real club deal. Check out “Night Sounds” (Deep Dance Dub), a gluey Chicago banger reminiscent of an early morning Traxx set. With many aliases and releases, be sure to browse through Maarten’s impressive catalogue.
In Search of True Love
Oofffff. You’re in for a treat! This alias of Aad de Mooy, best known as house producer D-Shake, took his talents to lay down a whole experimental route. Check out the haunting “High Noon Amazone”. Images pop up in my head of lurking through tropical swamps in experimental techno mode, machetes and mosquitos all present. Another top track is “Low Sun in Dub”, some intergalactic dancehall twister. Both, while also separately released on 12’’, have been featured on the CD album Sunspots. I’d like to close with “Crystal Siamese”, a soothing trip with lush pads and vocal-sounding chords from the compilation The Ambient Groove. The releases listed above all stem from the mighty ESP Records.
The Living Room
This side project by stalwart Orlando Voorn blew my mind. Having recently released a wonderful album on Rush Hour, this producer and DJ should really be getting more credits in the Netherlands. The former DMC champion who moved to Detroit is mostly known for his seminal floor wreckers under his Format moniker. As The Living Room he let go of any conventions. The loungey IDM on the 1994 album Roomservice makes you crave to sit in that rainbow room featured in the artwork. Another highlight is the track “Angels”. I did write a sentence describing it, but have since deleted it as I don’t want to spoil any fun. Volume up and enjoy the ride.
This album totally caught me off guard! Dream Night Dance Music by a former Psychick Warriors ov Gaia member, Robbert Heynen. In 1992 he left the group and started producing solo under the name Exquisite Corpse. From experimental soundscapes to club vibes – a fine subtlety in blending these elements is executed beautifully on this album. From the playful and melodic leads on “Elevator” to the rhythmic dreams on “Sacrifice”, this album is a total stunner.
Beautifully produced ambient techno by Gert-Jan Bijl and Dirk-Jan Hanegraaff. The former you probably know better as house producer Gerd, who is still highly active these days. I found the track “Confidential Suite” on a compilation also featuring famous contemporaries around that time, such as Luke Slater’s 7th plain and The Orb. Let your mind be played by its tingling melodies; this is a slow builder, pure class. “Interea” takes a mechanic percussion approach and has been featured on their 1994 album Never To Tell A Soul. Rotterdam!
The Connection Machine
Finishing up with some other gems from my hometown by The Connection Machine. Channeling a magical connection between Detroit and Utrecht sounds, their EP Bitflower has been released on Carl Craig’s Planet E records. Soothing jazzy drums with an intergalactic feel can be heard on the track “Mind Design”. Another killer EP from theirs is Black Hole on the notorious U-Trax label. Let’s roll this article out with “Space Cadets On Leave”. Utroid Machine Missions go! Make sure you check out the entire U-Trax catalog, lots of electro-tainted material too (tip: Sonar Bass).
Read more about Dutch music in Dutch Sounds From Beyond Pt. 1