Dunkle Ambient-Soundscapes mit orchestralen Mollharmonien prägten das "Sleeps with the Fishes“ Album, das Pieter Nooten 1987 zusammen mit Michael Brook (und unter Mithilfe von Brian Eno) bei 4AD veröffentlichte. Die Kombination aus atmosphärisch-dichten Synth-Klänge und der faszinierenden Infinite-Guitar von Michael Brook setzt auch heute noch Maßstäbe im Ambient-Bereich. Das Album war fragil, vielleicht etwas schwer, aber unglaublich schön. Leider blieb dies für lange Zeit die einzige Soloplatte von Pieter Nooten, der sich nach seinem Ausstieg bei Xymox 1991 der Techno/House-Musik zuwendete und als Teil der Hypercycle-Posse in Amsterdam Musik als Cyberia oder First Contact veröffentlichte. Aber spätestens ab 1995 wurde es ähnlich wie beim anderen ehemaligen Xymox-Mitglied Anka Wolbert still um ihn (die Gründe gibt’s beim Interview mit Anka).
Im Mai 2006 geschah das mittlerweile schon nicht mehr geglaubte: Anka und Pieter beendeten ihre lange Auszeit von Musikbusiness und während Anka mit "Cocoon Time" sich zurückmeldete, veröffentlichte Pieter Nooten mit „Ourspace“ nach 19 Jahren endlich wieder eine neue Soloplatte. Erschienen sind die beiden Alben bei ihrem (zusammen mit Sophie Zeyl) selbst gegründeten Label i-rain Records.
Natürlich liegt durch das „Sleeps with the Fishes“ Album die Messlatte für das neue Album sehr hoch und die Spannung war groß, wie denn seine Musik nach all den Jahren klingt. Zum Glück hat Pieter Nooten seine Fähigkeit spannungsvolle melancholische Soundwände aus üppigen Synthflächen zu erschaffen nicht verloren. Klingt elektronische Musik oftmals eher kalt, dominieren bei „Ourspace“ warme Sounds und Klänge. Schon beim „Fishes“ Album war der Gesang wie ein weiteres Instrument in die Songs gemischt und so ist auch bei „Ourspace“ Pieter Nootens sanfte und etwas traurige Stimme wieder wohlig zurückgenommen und passt sich in die Atmosphäre der Soundscapes bestens ein. Highlights sind das wunderschön, sehnsüchtige „Lo down valley“ oder „Rain Down“. Aber auch einen richtigen kleinen Hit gibt es mit „Stop Time“, einem großartigen (Ambient)-Popsong, mit tollem Gesang und simplen aber effektvollen Drumprogramming und das obwohl mir gerade die Rhythmusprogrammierung bei „Ourspace“ nicht wirklich gut gefällt, weil es für mich zu sehr nach den 90ern klingt. Gerade elektronische Musik nötig ja einen dazu immer ganz vorne bei den Trends und im Sounddesign zu sein um nicht „alt“ zu klingen. Aber andererseits ist die Musik von Pieter Nooten ja auch eher zeitlos und abseits von allen Trends. Geschmacksache.
Nach Jahren der Stille, hier nun Pieter Nooten im Unruhr-Interview:
First we haven't heard from you for years and now you have both put out new albums, you've produced Sophie Zeyl's CD and founded your own label i-rain. That's a lot - maybe one at a time:
The first question has to start with the past: What have you done the last years? We had to fear that we would not hear any new music form you.
I've been all over the place but mainly I've been taken an extended sabbatical from the music bizz. Meaning: I've been plane lazy to be honest, staring endlessly at computer screens, doing different things all the time but not being able to make any substantial choices. I wrote bits & pieces for magazines, wasted time on writing a SF book and wrote music for theater, media related or commercial occcasions. I needed time off from the 'serious' music industry, just like Anka. Obviously her and I weren't finished with the whole thing; there was still too much great music left lying around, nagging at us, screaming from the shells at us to be re-remixed, re-recorded or whatever. Yet it took someone fresh like Sophie Zeyl to get us out of our lazy chairs and make us realise to release our own material as well, some way or another. There was only one problem. The thought of having to go through all the traditional palluva with record companies and all the short-sighted ego's behind their desks coming with it depressed us so much, we didn't even consider going that way.
You are now using i-rain to publish your new records. So is that the result from the bad experience you've had with the music industry?
What is the philosophy of i-rain records? It there a clear direction music-wise? And are you planning to distribute your records only via the internet or will you stick with the traditional way via record stores?
Which is three questions in one, hence my short answer to number two (I'm 45 now and have a short concentration fuse). The philosophy of i-rain records is way beyond me. You need to ask Anka. I'm not even sure Anka or Sophie have an answer to the question. A rumour told me it has something to do with just wanting to release the music we like to compose and listen to. Contemporary yet timeless. Not too pretentious please, but passionate yes, not shallow and at times a bit rough around the edges. I don't think this music could have been put out by a major record company, taken the amount of people you would need to convince of the attraction of this kind of avant garde pop music. It would take years, concerning the slow turning mills of the music business. No, the internet is absolutely the best medium to stick to at this time. Distribution and promotion need attention but I'm convinced it will all come together and grow within the next coming years.
Anka made it clear in the interview with Unruhr.de that the cooperation with you means a lot to her. You have helped each other with the new CDs and you have co-produced each other's albums. Can you describe the cooperation with Anka and what is so special about it for you?
Working with Anka is so relaxed! Mind you, we have known eachother for a very long time now so I guess we don't need many words to get each other's point. I tend to jump up a lot during composing; I cannot seem to sit still for more the 0.3 seconds so I must be hell to work with. This may sound strange, but composing 'Ourspace' was probably some sort of way of achieving calmness in a reality where I see myself jumping from wall to wall. I like Anka's finely tuned sense of order, she seems in control all the time. This is nonsense of course, but her convidence rubs off on you and you feel great. She's also a great music producer and added some much needed accents to 'Ourspace'. Anka never seems stressed. Which is soothing.
19 years have passed between the appearance of Ourspace, your new CD and your first solo project Sleeping with the Fishes (1987, with Michael Brook). The music on both albums is very private and introvert, even though the new album is not as sad as Sleeping with Fishes. Can you nevertheless see a connection between them?
Of course. Only this time it was me alone in my bedroom, literally. And I don't mean this in a stupid romantic tragical way. It was fantastic and I loved every minute of working on 'Ourspace'. They are bedroom recordings in every respect (so were the authentic tracks of 'sleeps'): produced on a simple -at this time out of date- computer. I do love solitude allthough next time I will probably be looking for more cooperation. Working on Anka's and Sophie's album was inspirational for instance. But to answer your question: I must (reluctantly) admit that 'Sleeps' and 'Ourspace' are very much influenced by baroque music from the 17th to 18th century. I know how pretentious or maybe even just plane silly this sounds but I'm afraid this is the music I listen to most. In baroque compositions every single played instrument has its own special importance and needs all the attention it can get. In Bach's 'Kunst Der Fuge' every single composed note needs to be played with just as much dynamic, timbre and velocity as the other one. This means pure abstraction and is completely out of this world. Anyway, this strange affection to contrapunt and old fashioned polyphony MUST have influenced the way I like to compose, in my own naive way. I also like to make every single beat, hit, note and sample audible. Plus I like to add layer upon layer of sound or harmony, without any particular one sticking out. I wanted that in 'Sleeps with the fishes' and I approach its limits on 'Ourspace'. You either need to really concentrate, or have it on in the background. There's no middle ground. There is slow progression and layer upon layer of sound. Something to get lost in, or have it playing in the background. Or maybe even dislike and turn off. I would, if i was in a hurry.
Over which time scale have you written the songs on Ourspace? What are your main influences regarding writing and arranging the songs?
Some possibly date back to the late nineties but most are quite new. As I said before I really do not listen to pop music much at all. It bores me to bits and this may sound contradictory because 'Ourspace' consists of very slow evolving harmonies with very little changes. My influences this time were Ennio Morrricone, J.S. Bach, Philip Glass, John Barry and various popular music, ranging from Madonna to the Aphex Twin.
Are you not worried that people will put you into the New Age Corner as a result of the ambient-type of sound?
It's possible 'Ouspace' is just 'ambient music'. But I haven't heard many ambient albums that feel this intimate. There always seems to be an air of cool distance about electronic music (Kraftwerk), it can easily be turned into muzak or it gets drenched in supressed macho techno-ism (the Orb). 'Ourspace' could break new ground in bringing more warmth and humanity to the genre, but that's probably only in my dreams. It's all sample based, I admit -no body played a single acoustic note on 'Ourspace'- but it's not your typical digital stuff. I hope.
The sample in "So much easier" has his roots in the beautiful Cyberia- Song "Seezing the moment" and also the song "Head circles about the body" reminds one of Cyberia...
Wow. I'm impressed. Of course I do use the most beautiful samples I have made over and over again. It's like trying to find the best use for it; when I'm working on a track I always tend to keep a folder of old (even 8 bit!) sounds and self made samples close by. Hypercycle was a great time. We used to put out 12-inches almost every week. We knew some of the DJ's playing at the infamous Roxy in Amsterdam at the time. Seeing them trying out our tracks on a real audience was fantastic. We would stand on the balcony watching the crowd and when they responded in a certain way to some remix, we would go back to the studio and change things accordingly. Dance music always intrigued me because of the possibilies of extreme experimentation combined with blant, brutal banality. It's not like that anymore, but it was in the early nineties with acts like 808 State, Underworld, Prodigy and FSL. It's all gone a bit 'Pete Tong' after that. (I'm still working on dance orientated music mind you and we are still trying to push the envelope. It's on summersmusic.nl (sorry for promoting my other work but the great people I'm working with would kill me for not trying!)
What kind of equipment (synth, keys, software) do you use?
As I said it's all done on Anka's G5, running Logic Audio Pro with all the plug ins installed. There is hardly any outboard gear involved. Apart from some good compressors and special effect units to use on guitars and vocals (used mainly on Anka's and Sophie's albums).
Hier zum unruhr.de-Interview 2010
(Clan of) XYMOX Biographie:
Teil 1: Subsequent Pleasures (1983 - 1985)
Teil 2: Medusa (1986 - 1987)
Teil 3: Imagination (1988 - 1991)
Teil 4: Metamorphosis (1992 - 2001)
Teil 5: Vaselyn, Hypercycle, Born for Bliss (Post-XYMOX)