Soundtracking the Megalopolis – ZONDERWERK ‘s ‘babel’ out on Dauw next week

Dauw is thrilled to present babel, the debut album from Belgian duo ZONDERWERK. The duo’s name means ‘’without work’’, but it also comes from “bijzonder werk”, where bijzonder is particular, special, unique. They like to work with images/paintings that are “bijzondere werken”, odd works.

babel is an ambitious exercise in translating images into sound. babel was initially created for the eponymous theatre piece by architect and artist Steve Salembier. Inspired by the biblical legend, Salembier envisions the legendary city as an abstract, sprawling modern metropolis in continuous flux. Its steel and glass skeleton is a representation of both an accumulation of overlapping contemporary cityscapes and a metaphor for the anonymous repetitiveness of our daily routines mirrored by the architecture. Subway lines, sky scrapers and whirling highways converge into a megalopolis of monstrous proportions. Despite the composition’s initial context as soundtrack for a theatre play, for the band this album is seen as a standalone work, whose complex sonic material can be appreciated without having seen the piece.

Their score focuses on fleshing out the imposing imaginary universe both in terms of scale and meaning. One of their biggest inspirations were Michael Woolf’s photographs, which served as the basis for the original theatre piece. His use of grey and repetition is translated into looped harmonies and fine-grained drones that progressively open up like blooming ice flowers.

With sounds of bells and metal as their primary materials, Carrijn and Sanders build soundscapes that are at once seductive and unsettling. The atmosphere on tracks like “DreamArp4Kort4” make for majestic, mysterious synths conjuring otherworldly visions, while the angelic glockenspiel set against subtle explosions in “VuurFeest” suggest a serene yet potentially dangerous place. Other tracks like “RoomCarousselTapeLoop5” create multi-layered textured drones through the process of tape decay, a commentary on the cannibalistic nature of the city.

Resulting from an arduous improvisational process using old samplers with elements such as the Beam harp, a self-made metal instrument with piano strings, reel to reel tape recorders, field recordings and violin, babel perfectly captures the oxymoron of the man-made concrete jungle that is at once inhospitable yet endlessly awe-inducing.


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