Banabila / Machinefabriek – ST
One thing I noticed living as a ‘buitenlander’ (‘foreigner’) in The Netherlands was a marked tendency for artists of all stripes to collaborate with each other. Indeed, it seemed that the tradition of the lone artist wrenching out art from the depths of his isolated studio-bound soul was very much a thing of the past. Yet what was evident among the Dutch artists I encountered also seems to be increasingly true elsewhere, and not only among the arts: consider the difficulties of awarding Nobel Prizes, which are limited to a maximum of three recipients each year, in an age when most scientific discoveries are the result of collaborations between large teams of people. As the world becomes more and more complex (or perhaps, as we become more and more aware of the world’s complexities), the ability of one individual to produce a meaningful aesthetic statement or scientific innovation single-handedly is correspondingly diminished. Artists and scientists alike are learning to collaborate out of necessity.
Rotterdam residents Michel Banabila and Machinefabriek are perhaps exemplary of this collaborative tendency, both as frequent collaborators with other musicians — Banabila with Scanner, Mete Erker, and noted Dutch trumpeter Eric Vloeimans, Machinefabriek with, well, almost anyone you’d care to mention — and also as contributors to film, theatre, dance, installation, and architectural projects. Their first, eponymous record together demonstrates this shared aptitude for cooperation, their respective approaches blending so seamlessly that it’s hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. It could be argued that the album is too dramatic and too flooded with ambient warmth to be a Machinefabriek record, and also too playful and fluid to be credited to Banabila alone, yet the overall impression is of the workings of a single entity rather than the juxtaposition of two different styles. Although electronic sound sources predominate, with a fair few field recordings thrown in for good measure, the ‘acoustic’ appears privileged over the ‘electro’ in that I could almost describe the air pushed by my speakers as syrupy, so full and weighty is the sound. Highs are piercing and lows throbbing, yet never irritatingly so; this is music that is strongly present, without being overbearing.
The album is self-released by the artists in CD and download editions. The idea that “two heads are better than one” may not be new, but if putting it into practice is increasingly the norm, for Banabila and Machinefabriek it is an approach that has reaped rich dividends. – Fluid Radio
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