Review

Ardjanssen

Red Brut – Cloaked Travels

Used with kind permission by Richard Foster, August 31st, 2020, The Quietus

Red Brut – aka Marijn Verbiesen -makes uncompromising but compelling experimental music. A compulsive collector of sounds and active in Rotterdam’s exciting experimental scene for a number of years, her work may emit echoes from the great 60s-70s Dutch tradition of sound experimenters and instrument makers, like Louis Andriessen, Michel Waisvisz and Dick Raaijmakers.

Red Brut is a decision maker, a creator of sonic landscapes in the true sense. A lot of her artistic power comes from a process of selecting the right sound for a particular moment; documenting her feelings or specific sensations. If Cloaked Travels is your introduction to her work, it’s instructive to understand how she normally plays her live sets. Live, she will select a (homemade) tape from a box to play and distort through whatever equipment she has at hand. Then, when the cassette has run its allotted time (or when Verbiesen is bored, or otherwise finished with it), she discards it on the floor next to her. These moments of choice can be random but they speak of great discipline in sourcing and creating sounds. And they can be mesmerising to watch.

Alongside a number of singles and cassettes this is her second LP proper, released on two Finnish labels, Ikuisuus and Lal Lal Lal and a follow up from 2018’s self titled release on the Begian label KRAAK. Although the same network of sounds populate both her LPs, Cloaked Travels feels like a more orderly affair – composed of two distinct movements: the whimsical suite, ‘Songs For Another World (I-IV)’ and its partner, the more mysterious and unnerving ‘Magnesium Dreams (I-IV)’.

The first movement is also very sensual: the opener ‘Songs For Another World I’ a delightful piece of abstract sound that has a 1960s quality, Frank Comstock’s Music From Outer Space, maybe, or Barry Gray, quietly mucking about in his shed. By contrast the ‘Magnesium Dreams’ suite feels more like a travelogue, and a threatening one at that, populated by a menagerie of processed, animalistic noises – certainty ones made without any human agency. This is music to set the nerve ends off, ever so slightly.

Verbiesen openly plays off notions of an inner and outer world against each other. And, as such, there is a fair amount of voyeurism on the record. Of course, these are sounds that once existed in our world, and now, filtered, processed and reordered, they’re repackaged for our wonderment here. But where do they take us?

One answer is that they take us back to our heads, and Verbiesen knows this and exploits it. Sometimes she seems to enjoy the sensuousness – even the ludicrousness – of what a sample can do to her audience; the creaking door (is it a creaking door?) on ‘Songs For Another World II’ becomes increasingly hypnotic and funny as you listen along. For its part, ‘Songs For Another World III’ sounds like a field full of miniature frogs croaking along to some toy wolves. There is a very simple melody to unpick, too; if you fancy doing that. At other times, just like Francis Bacon with his paintings, she likes to make a quiet assault on the nervous system.

The build in suspense on the initially indolent ‘Magnesium Dreams III’ is a case in point. Rattling and scraping and blaring and other uncouth sounds gradually take over what was a perfectly groovy piece of sound art. Apart from the sounds themselves, the suspicion that Verbiesen is dedicated to her path – regardless of you – is what unsettles.

The last track on the LP mirrors the first in its low key beauty, here we get a dolorous synth harmony which is slowly overtaken by what sounds like the sharpening of a scythe. To round things off we hear what seems to be a toy hand organ coda. I think this bit’s meant to be a “nice ending”. A moment that encapsulates Red Brut’s music: seemingly simple, always mysterious, deceptively blunt in its effect.