The Time Before

Latest release from Rinus van Alebeek is Let Me Help You Get Rid Of This (TMRW) – surprisingly (to me) released on a new Berlin label rather than his own imprint. Mind you it looks like a very sympathetic environment for his brand of sound art – check out their Bandcamp page for a small selection of choice cassettes. At first sweep, Let Me Help is somewhat more conventional-appearing than Rinus’ usual surrealistic side-swipes at life – there’s more recognisable materials, a lot of outdoor stuff, human voices and friendly familiar audio snippets…and less of the elliptical editing that is such a large part of his style. Even shopping malls and rainfall, two over-used tropes in this genre if ever there was, gain new life in the hands of RVA.

But the surrealism is intact in the titles, poetic lines such as ‘The Meteorite near the lake’ and ‘A pocket-sized dream’; my favourite title, ‘Modern coffee in an old train station’ is good enough to pass the De Chirico test in my book, though it’s more likely to refer to the event of buying coffee from a franchise stand in a 19th-century railway station in Europe, of which the irony would not be wasted on this crusty veteran of the culture wars. “Some of them [the sounds] chosen because of their musical quality”, write Rinus in enclosed letter, perhaps alluding to the snippets of pop song (sometimes heard on passing radios) which continue to surface in his recordings and indeed are significant enough to form one of his many subtexts. Or maybe the documentary recording itself has the quality of music in its cadences and tones.

It’s certainly fair to say there is no unpleasant noise on Let Me Help, and despite its melancholic and wistful mood, it continues to emanate the familiar charm we love so well. The other part of his letter I like is where I can highlight just two lines of it and thus derive the phrase “a bit of time before ystrdy”. How lyrical is that? Every sound recording we hear is a “bit of time before yesterday”. And ystrdy has found its natural home on a label that is operating tmrw. 20 copies only; seems to have sold out already at source. From 29 May 2019.

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