Sports And Finance
NETHERLANDS NARROMINDED NM069 LP (2014)
Unholy math! Rapid-fire beats in unusual time signatures underpinned by Harkleroad-ish or Polvo-esque detuned guitar lines; great news if you are that way inclined. Add a dash of late-90s Squarepusher if you’re not, and here’s something that should raise a few eyebrows down at your local indie disco. Blimey, does it work for me. Big, neon splashes of colour in an otherwise dreary, overcast, grey Tuesday morning, when even four cups of Douwe Egberts can’t usually shift my cerebellum out of grainy monochrome.
Spoelstra appears to be the work of just one man, Jeroen Warntjes – a drummer who has augmented his musical abilities with production and editing skills while also being a pretty nifty guitarist with an interest in non-standard tunings. Opener ‘Map And Shovel’ sets about your local beach with a Native Instruments JCB digger, building up the pressure with each scoop of its powerful sequencer. The next, eponymous, track demonstrates a clearer head perhaps, with a nice mid 90s indie-electro vibe about it, reminding me a little of the first Fridge lp. It’s great. It smells like a classic to me. ‘Sports And Finance’ is a track that I suspect could have quite a long life in the public consciousness; it may take a little while to get there, if ever, but I’ve got a funny feeling about this one.
‘Make Out And Roll Credits’ – cheeky – makes like Spoelstra is on some kind of sonic battle of brinksmanship with himself; the music seems on the point of collapse and just a minute before the end he’s pushed everything into the red of digital distortion in anger or frustration.
What Spoelstra really digs though, and this is borne out by the fifth track, ‘Smile And Wave’, is drum programming. If we look at other case studies of what happens when you don’t leave your studio for days on end, much less get any sleep because of the time it takes to move all those little squares around a computer screen in order to produce all those new and interesting micro-rhythms (Aphex Twin, Squarepusher for example), we find that the sheer dementedness such focussed editing seems to result in tends to have a heavy bearing on the rest of the music. Things are no different here as the following tracks ‘Hell And Safety’ and ‘Piss And Chips’ attest. I should say it took a few spins before this mid to end section of the album stopped seeming like it had lost its way a bit – but this, I think, is purely due to the contrast of the sheer force of the start and end tracks.
The final track ‘Hit And Miss Florida’ starts with some unaccompanied drum machine which reminds me of how amazing it is when you consider what they started with the Fender Sideman accompaniment machine way back. Those sounds are still with us via the Roland TR808. And countless digital emulations thereof. Nothing however can capture the true warmth of the Sideman – visit the Cantos keyboard museum next time you’re in Calgary; they’ve got a working example there. The drum sounds at the start of this tune do have that warm quality.
Also on Narrominded his album Pallets from 2011, a book and cd subtitled Everything You Will Ever Need To Know About Pallets – You Will Never Look At A Pallet And Not Think About This Book which is kind of a recommendation in itself. However, Sports And Finance is a lot more refined than the more guitar-centric Pallets. Absolutely also worth checking out is his version of Bernard Herrmann’s ‘Theme From Taxi Driver’ performed live in April of 2014 where by means of progressively more unhinged live loop generation, he sculpts a very convincing likeness of the insides of Travis Bickle’s head by updating and ramping up the claustrophobic psychosis of Herrmann’s original score.