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Review: eau by Mariska Baars and Rutger Zuydervelt

15 July 2019

Re-joining as a duo for their first creative collaboration in just over a decade, Mariska Baars and Rutger Zuydervelt combine forces to breathe into life their atmospheric new release ‘eau.’ Mastered by Stephan Mathieu, this track is one long-form soundscape that is quite minimal but packed full of detail. A surprising, stimulating listen, it sprawls over thirty minutes of flowing, layered, modulating timbres. Baars, best known for her 2007 album ‘sC,’ combines her minimalist, impressionistic songwriting with Zuydervelt’s musical talents, who has a number of releases to his name, the most recent being ‘With Voices.’ Together, their self-described “audio debris” comes together in pleasing ways that fully engage the senses. 

Beginning with whirling, fragmented voices wailing in asymmetric, unmetered haze, this unfolding sound has a haunting, paradoxical sense of unfamiliar familiarity, redolent of a Björkian female-led chorus, but with a flavour all of its own. Like a tapestry, with sounds threaded through and adorned with such careful detail, there is a quiet sense of stasis, while subtle changes in surface detail gently carry us along. Often, the sonorities that ripple out are so elusive, blending between the spaces in ways that make them almost impossible to pinpoint, defying categorisation. 

There is a cosmic sense of stillness and awe, as this soundscape straddles earth-bound and psychedelic sensibilities. It’s as if this goes beyond seeing, hearing, knowing and touches something deeper; an encounter with something unnameable. As sounds are woven through, sometimes just grazing the surface of consciousness, the gentle voices are offset with glassy tones and e-bowed strings that are wide and warm. Without even realising, everything has changed in a slow, seamless transition leading into scratchier, metallic sounds, with rustling and flickering.

Like light through stain glass catching the dust as it settles, there is a sense of the infinite in the delicacy of these sounds. Getting progressively more nebulous, there are few moments of gentle interruption, so subtle they almost go unnoticed, but serve to softly refocus, as attention is perfectly sustained. Despite no formal delineations of sonic boundaries, the composition and construction of this all feels very deliberate: within its singularity, a constant disintegration and decay, with finespun tension between breakdown and renewal. Its conclusion seems to come full circle to where we began, beckoning to listen on, again and again.

A rewarding listen when fully attentive and tuned in, this track leaves the listener wide-eyed with wonder, with a serene sense of being frozen in time, yet moving ever forward, like glacial ice. This release is a glorious slow-burner: these sounds truly stir something deep within, and when allowed to fully capture the imagination, feels akin to a mystical experience.

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