Using colour images of four bridges, cut up and collaged in concentric circles, Dutch graphic artist Gerco Hiddink designed a record sleeve for music that didn't yet exist. He and Rutger Zuydervelt - also trained in graphic design, but working with sound as Machinefabriek since 2004 - then made stereo field recordings at the site of each bridge. These audio snapshots were forwarded to improvisors inviting them to play along with the recorded environments. One bridge was assigned to percussionists Jon Mueller and Burkhard Beins, another to saxophonists Jim Denley and Espen Reinertsen, the third to percussionists Steven Hess and Erik Carlsson, the fourth to saxophonist Mats Gustafsson and trumpeter Nate Wooley. They each recorded their responses in isolation and sent them to Zuydervelt, who assembled them into four long-distance duets, which occupy a side each of Bridges. There's an obvious fascination in hearing physically distant instrumentalists responding sensitively to the same set of auditory prompts in ways that suggest they are playing in close proximity. Zuydervelt's choices were well judged. Gustafsson was a bold choice given his vociferous nature, but the duo with Wooley has a fine balanced tension comparable to the other virtual duets. Beyond the artefact, Hiddink and Zuydervelt offer a conceptually viable articulation of place in an age of downloads and diminished spatial barriers to exchange and communication.
- Julian Cowley, The Wire -

Bridges have shaped our history for centuries. Where rivers were forded, settlements were built, and trading routes were formed, and those have remained in place to this date. Even where a bridge outlives its useful life, crumbling and derelict, we rebuild them, or supplement them with bigger, parallel crossings. Innovation is in form, far more than location (consider the example of London, where Tower Bridge has remained the most easterly crossing for over 100 years). The rivers between the worlds of field recordings, noise, jazz and electronic music have long since been forded, but there is still space for the forward thinking sonic architect to construct something in a new form. One such person is the Dutch artist Machinefabriek, who has himself straddled these divides via his burgeoning discography in recent years.
Machinefabriek, aka Rutger Zuyderfelt, has co-curated this bridge-themed compilation with visual artist Gerco Hiddink, bringing together eight musicians (four pairings of two) across its four lavishly decorated sides, lovely spinning zoetropes all. Each pairing were given recordings made on location at four different bridges in the Netherlands to which they were to react independently, and the results were then mixed together. They were, if you like, building the same bridge, but from opposite ends, only able to guess at what was going on at the other side, and hoping they would meet in the middle. And with a little luck, some sound creative instinct, and a bit of help in the mixing, they have pulled it off: the constructions are not just stable enough to bear weight, but enjoyable to cross. The musicians recruited into this project have reacted in interesting, different and complementary ways to the source materials.
Not that the recordings always make it easy. It wasn't quite so tough for Jim Denley (who has played with the likes of John Butcher and Ikue Mori) and Esper Reinerstsen (Keith Rowe, Toshimaru Nakamura), their extended saxophone techniques mingling airily with birdsong under the Bergerslagbrook. Likewise for Steven Hess and Erik Carlsson (bass drum and crotales), and Mats Gustafsson and Nate Wooley (saxophone and trumpet), who interact well with the rumbling of cars passing overhead on the Waal and Rhine respectively. However, the bridge does little more than cast shadows across the contributions of percussionists Burkhard Beins and Jon Mueller, it is felt more as a resonance, with cymbals and bells ringing out into the space. Strangely, it is on this track that the bridge's presence is most keenly felt, as if the musicians themselves (and us, the listeners) are in a dark, echoing chamber under a drawbridge which crosses the Netterden Channel.
- Scott McMillan, The Liminal -

Images of this album have been shown around Facebook, Twitter and such like, and already met great acclaim and indeed: what a cover! So, what is it? Not easy to tell. Rutger Zuydervelt, the fabriek that is a machine, recorded four different bridges between Sinderen and Nijmegen (ho! ho!) in The Netherlands, along with visual material by designer Gerco Hiddink. He created a great visual work, which is displayed on the cover but also on the two picture discs themselves. A great visual thing. The field recordings were then passed onto eight musicians, all from the world of improvisation and asked to improvise along with the material and send it to Zuydervelt, who then mixed all of it together, in pairs of two players at a time. Quite a complicated scheme, I'd say, but the result is very nice. Zuydervelt has grouped the players, so there are saxophones played by Jim Denley and Espen Reinertsen, percussion piece by Burkhard Beins and Jon Mueller, saxophone by Mats Gustafsson and trumpet by Nate Wooley, bass drum and crotales by Erik Carlsson along with drums and amplified roto tom by Steven Hess. Not always the field recordings sound: they seem almost absent on the Muller/Beins side, but do play a big role on the one by Denley/Reinertsen, and in the Carlsson/Hess piece the many cars passing the Nijmegen bridge are also considerably important. Some of this playing, on all four sides, sound like they were done together, rather than separate. Excellent work all around, some great music, excellent images, and a fine concept behind all of this. Hard to tell who did what, and that's in this ego-world a great thing.
- Frans De Waard, Vital Weekly -

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