V/A: Groove's Dutch Masters Vol.1 (2011)
Updated: Jul 22, 2021
“This is a good compilation album that gets better the more you discover it”
1 Nachtwacht (Synth.nl) 7:41
2 Ascending and Descending (Remy) 6:08
3 Muurhuizen (Gert Emmens) 8:24
4 Nuit étoilée sur le Rhône (Eric v.d. Heijden) 7:20
5 Temptation (Void) 7:21
6 Tower of Babel (Rene Splinter) 5:57
7 Forrest Machines (Wuivend Riet) (Bas Broekhuis 10:14
8 Tuin der Lusten (Ron Boots) 6:43
9 The Zeppelin (Rene van der Wouden) 8:04
10 Back to Square One (Meesha) 6:41
(CD 74:34) (V.F.)
Putting into music the inspiration and understanding of a painting form a homeland painter, this is the basic idea of this new album by Groove nl. This rather original and daring concept was born in the mind of Michel van Osenbruggen (Synth.nl) and is now available as an album of various artists entitled DUTCH MASTERS Vol.1. I don't know much about art history, so I can't judge the degree of understanding that each artist can have of a painting. However, I do know a little about music and I must admit that there are some very nice inspirations among Michel's 9 compatriots who accepted this artistic challenge. A compilation album and/or various artists represents as many ideas and orientations as overlapping styles and this DUTCH MASTERS Vol.1 includes 10 tracks that do not all converge in the same style and whose composing talent differs from one artist to another. There are good moments here, as there are holes and some lengths. But the editing and mastering, done by Ron Boots, correct these gaps and make of DUTCH MASTERS Vol.1 a beautiful and melodic album with some nice gems in it.
The first of those gems is Synth.nl and his track Nachtwacht. It's amazing to see the progression and the maturity of this artist who offers a superb melody resembling the best of Vangelis. It starts with a violin-like synth singing among bells and chatters of a public market. A delicate piano lays down its notes to match and replace the violin melody, while a discreet sequence emerges to flicker and that a bass line adds more depth. Soon, synth and piano match their harmonies. But the synth overflows and offers brief, nasal solos, as Nachtwacht slowly progresses to a sublime bolero. A choir sings, drums roll and hammer a military march in a delicate ambience as melodious as melancholic. Very beautiful as well as Ascending and Descending from Remy which follows with a theatrical track load of nightmarish atmospheres. Fine crystalline arpeggios climb stairs in a movement that follows the scale. They switch in a sequencer movement that goes up and down in a long spiral soaked in composite sounds. A spasmodic sequencer line gets in and draws a rotational movement caught by percussions, which hammer out a heavy rhythm, and whipped by long solos that chisel out a crazy race. As crazy as surreal! Gert Emmens' Muurhuizen follows with a sober rhythmic structure in a track with evolving atmospheres. Chords twirl lightly in a synthesized haze as drum explosions shake the structure and spectral solos flow through it. One of which escapes at about the 2-minute mark to shift Muurhuizen into a warmer phase with its ethereal breath. Around the 4th minute, the rhythm changes again delicately with a nice dance of sparkling arpeggios sprinkled with superb synth solos. A bit like Synth.nl, Nuit étoilée sur le Rhône from Eric van der Heijden is strongly tinged of a Vangelis-like romanticism. It's a pleasant surprise with a delicate keyboard that drops its chords in a good melancholy vibe which is wrapped in orchestral arrangements, including a poignant violin that goes for the emotional fiber. It's beautiful, soft, calm and very moving with its mellotron flights that hover like specters of sorrow. After a soft intro, Void's Temptation dives into a heavy rhythm supported by pulsating sequences and electronic percussions. Heavy, long and sinuous solos fly over this structure, which could easily be compared to heavy EM, with a gradation in intonation, touching on the influences of Jean-Michel Jarre and Mark Shreeve. It's powerful and it's a bit different from the whole of DUTCH MASTERS Vol.1, but it gives the taste to discover the universe of Void.
Rene Splinter is another unknown to me, and his track Tower of Babel shows a strong influence for Tangerine Dream's music, with a melodic 80's structure where metallic sequences alternate in a soft and complex anarchy under fine and delicate synth solos. I like this propensity for a somewhat complex structure with good arrangements that conclude with a solitary piano. Another artist to watch! Forrest Machines - Wuivend Riet from Bas Broekhuis is another little gem with a haunting Berlin School structure a la Keller & Schönwälder. Soft chords sounding like an electric guitar bounce lightly in a dense mellotron haze. A violin-like mellotron hugs the quiet sensuality of a bass line, shaken by jangling cymbals. The synth gives off a harmonious smell with its violin tones that float with a morphic softness over arrhythmic pulsations and percussions with delicate hypnotic strokes. Quietly, Forrest Machines - Wuivend Riet evolves with its hypnotic pulsating structure that permutes into a fine technoïd approach before resuming its bewitching structure. The charm fades gradually leaving glimpses of these fine discreet voices that hiss next to soft piano and keyboard chords that embrace the sweetness of its intro. Without rhythmic essence, but a bit melodic with its synth and its multiple violin layers which get entwined in an infinite melancholy, Tuin Der Lusten spreads its melancholy with staccato layers that intertwine with others more fluid. Complex, dramatic and corrosive, in conformity with the painting of Hieronymus Bosch, this track from Ron Boots follows accurately the orchestral ambiences of Forrest Machines - Wuivend Riet but with abundant sad layers that create a gloomy ambience. After an intro with different eclectic and experimental stages, René van der Wouden's The Zeppelin takes off on hesitant sequences that accelerate the pace on an ascending minimalist movement, accompanied by a verbal synth and its heteroclite sound effects. It's an enchanting track, with its minimalist approach, which breaks the chains of its spell to establish a dynamic rhythmic structure with crystalline arpeggios glittering on a heavy pace and resonant sequences whipped with fine synth solos. Another artist strongly inspired by Jean-Michel Jarre, Meesha, whom I discovered with the album Within the Parallel, closes this last compilation of Groove Unlimited with the very beautiful and rhythmic Back to Square One. Impossible to miss the influences of JMJarre on this beautiful melody forged in the space universe of the French synthesist. It's a beautiful track surrounded by cosmic rhythms and sound effects that transposes itself into a galactic western, showing that the abundance of styles and the meshing of 10 ideas on a compilation album from various artists can bring its share of interesting surprises.
DUTCH MASTERS Vol.1 is a good compilation album that gets better the more you discover it. It's a nice album that I would not hesitate to recommend and that can serve the causes of EM and its fans, because those who insist on getting all the titles from Remy, Ron Boots or Gert Emmens will find some nice finds with artists like Synth.nl, Eric v.d. Heijden and Bas Broekhuis as well as heavier artists like Void and René van der Wouden, while Rene Splinter and Meesha are definitely worth a listen.
Sylvain Lupari (March 7th, 2011) *****
Available at Groove nl