Matthew Florianz - ambient environment soundscapes

niemandsland (2006)

1. stilte
2. snoei
3. herfst (steelguitar by oscar stegehuis)
4. spiegel (steelguitar by oscar stegehuis)
5. storm
6. verdwaald
7. niemandsland
8. thuis

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   " ... florianz’s attention to detail and ability to create intense swathes of emotive ambience is hard to beat, consistently producing high quality ambient albums ... "
reviews

alan lockett
e/i

Matthew Florianz's eleventh release sees him in somber world-weary mood, that’s if we go by his identification of “what has been going on in the Netherlands and the larger world surrounding it” as being behind the initial ideas inspiring Niemandsland. And well might he entitle this collection “No Man's Land,” for these articulations of wild and windswept wastes inhabit a space actively prohibitive of feelings of home or belonging, like the Hic Sunt Leones of the old cartographers.

The signature sound of this region is one of billowing smear-drones ranging across the soundstage, enshrouding the listener in a foggy blur, driving inward to isolationist-inclined questing or outward to frown-on-the-void dystopia. The accompanying visuals reinforce atmospherics and issue pointers to a specific affective place—monochromatic, austere neo-expressionist rather than minimalist, at times almost like a forlorn ceremonial.

An air of something like desolation imbues the proceedings, at times seemingly portending some barely-envisioned eclipse of humanity, at others, with its elemental sounds of wind and naturalia providing an extra timbral element to pitched material, seemingly expressive of environmental ferment.

Herfst hoists up a shifting and shimmering curtain of sound with sustains whose textures are strangely both delicate and gritty, simultaneously pristine and grubby. Continuing thematic flow is Spiegel with its ominous low drone that slowly streams into upper-end radiance, edges roughened and tainted with echo-feedback.

The materiality of Florianz’s work on Niemandsland is one of meshed layers, some dissonant but staying on the side of the grainy and glurpy, others more conventionally musical, but with consonant harmonic material distinctly more reticent than on best-known work, Grijsgebied. The extensive field recordings here, such as deployed on the cavernous void-outfolding of Verdwaald and Niemandsland itself, signal a departure from the mainly synthetic drone-based work of recent years. The latter, an 18-minute brooder, too epic to be merely ambient, subtly mutates and evolves into a massive cloud of tuned air mixed with chord-rush to occupy a space not far removed from Roach’s Magnificent Void. Having quietened to a virtual lull, it regroups its forces, sonorously rising in a fabulous upsurge to close in what feels like a lightening of the skies after a laregly tenebrous voyage. It shows how versatile an orchestrator of flow and drift Florianz is, capable of hymning the heavens, should he choose, but on Niemandsland it’s predominantly a willful, almost portentous, bleakness and an earthly disquiet that seems the obscure object of his muse’s desire.

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jim brenholts

Matthew Florianz is one of the world's foremost creators of electronic minimalism. Niemandsland (loosely translated as No Man's Land) is a set of eight interconnected atmospheres that form one billowing soundscape.

This is very deep stuff! Matthew Florianz's drones move freely within the confines of the chosen listening space. They evoke imagery of gray, cold and barren spaces. This is not dark ambience! It is totally ambivalent. It seeks neither to soothe nor to provoke. Rather, it seeks to isolate and abandon. (Isolation can be frightening and/or soothing – sometimes simultaneously. It can also be ambivalent.)
This mind numbing set can best be described as the soundtrack for Purgatory. As the focus of a deep listening session, this CD can have a white noise effect. It facilitates relaxation that is neither pleasant nor disturbing. It is psychoacoustic but not quite psychoactive.

This is almost the ultimate ambient music CD. It is perfectly ignorable and strangely interesting. It is also essential.

paul lloyd
igloomag.com

(01.10.07) Florianz began work on his eleventh album, Niemandsland, as far back as 2003 but struggled to find the seamless flow of thoughts, ideas and sounds he sought. It wasn’t until much later that everything fell into place with the addition of found sounds and field recordings. Recorded as an almost continuous musical piece, Niemandsland flows from track to track, subtly shifting moods as it goes.

Florianz’s attention to detail and ability to create intense swathes of emotive ambience is hard to beat. Consistently producing high quality ambient albums, Florianz incorporates not only synthesised sound but also environmental ambience that ranges from street noise and planes passing overhead to birdsong and flowing water. Even these sounds are incorporated into his music in such a way that they are perfectly placed integral elements of the mood and atmosphere being created, subtly bringing part of his environment to the listener.

Niemandsland opens and closes with 30 seconds of pure silence, perhaps to contemplate what you are about to hear and what you have already heard? Snoei – which apparently means “clip, prune or shear” in English – is an interesting play on words and content as it is a short track focusing mostly on a motorised chainsaw enhanced by a very discrete drone to add some atmosphere. Herfst (“Autumn”) which follows it builds from a distant rumble into a continuous almost bell-like drone and what sounds like the gentle ebb and flow of the sea, switching from a harrowing bleak landscape to a more optimistic outlook by its close. Building on this theme is Spiegel (“Mirror”) with its ominous low drone that builds with glowing radiance, lapsing occasionally into an uneasy sense of foreboding. A steady drone permeates Storm before ominously slow church-like bell tolls and an anxious atmosphere build and then slowly dissipate. The sound of water on the shore, a passing helicopter and a creaking gate all help set the scene for VerdWaald (“Lost”) as it gently unfolds, rich in environmental sounds. The longest track on the album, Niemandsland (“No Man’s Land”) is an unassuming track that subtly mutates and evolves, sometimes gently flowing along, occasionally restless but constantly shifting, almost unnoticeable, to form a beautifully emotive soundscape. The closing track Thuis (“Home”) is based around a field recording of a cold windswept street, presumably in Florianz’s home town, with just a little added electronic texture towards the close for good measure.

Florianz has the ability to create sublime ambient soundscapes that flow and drift wonderfully, subtly shifting and ever-changing. Often, he will record material actually on location as he did with his previous albums Openstage and Molenstraat, recorded in outdoor locations and in an apartment on The Hague respectively. This helps create an organic quality to his music that is enhanced by the intensity of the electronic elements. As always with Florianz’s music, it is totally captivating and engrossing, portraying images of the surrounding environment to the listener.

As is often the case with Florianz’s releases, Niemandsland is also available in a very limited edition release of just 100 copies worldwide (all long sold out). This version of the album comes wrapped in a Hessian square tied with Hessian twine and contains a signed and numbered postcard, the CD itself and a further 2 professionally produced CDRs, one entitled Jaren and the other Fragmenten. The first of the bonus discs is a suite of unused music from Niemandsland compiled by Darren Scott of H/S Recordings and the second is a further collection of unreleased and hard to find music recorded between 1995 and 2001. Both discs are currently exclusive to the limited edition.

dene bebbington
melliflua

Matthew Florianz's eleventh release Niemandsland (translated from Dutch as “no-man's-land”) was born back in 2003. Eventually pared down from over six hours of recordings it's a fusion of environmental found sounds with deep and thoughtful drones. The environmental sounds, which predominate in some places, make this a departure from Matthew Florianz's other recent albums which were based on synthesised drones.

An odd start to the album is made in the half-minute track Stilte that is nothing but silence. Incidentally, one aspect this album shares with the recent The Tone T(h)ree is that its recorded at a lower level than normal and so you may need to crank the volume up to appreciate all the sonic nuances.

The second short track Snoei sounds mostly like environmental recordings with what could be the droney roar of traffic and the buzz of a chainsaw. What Matthew Florianz does well from this early point onwards is leave the listener guessing as to which are actually synthesised drones and which are the “real” sounds. Much of the album has a disquieting quality, it's like perceiving the aural world as often being rather dark and oppressive – which a lot of noise pollution is. Imagine you can't see so your hearing becomes more acute, in some ways listening to Niemandsland is like experiencing the world in those terms.

For me the final track Thuis is the most pleasant. We hear the sound of birds cawing and singing, what could be distant water, planes flying overhead, and other human activity such as footsteps and cars. It brought to mind a relaxing day in a park where one can appreciate nature but not forget that the modern world isn't far away. Towards the end the soundscape becomes artificial as lonely drones slowly fade away.

On reflection I'd have to say that Niemandsland is the least accessible of Matthew Florianz's albums that I've heard so far. What I found particularly interesting though is how it can be difficult, if not impossible, in places to discern the synthesised drones from the environmental recordings. Intense listening to pick out the details and subtleties can be rewarding.

stephen fruitman
sonumu

For a veteran partisan of the genre like myself, Matthew Florianz is an artist who seems to have flown in under the ambient radar. I´m pretty sure I hadn´t even heard his name mentioned before this CD emerged out of the no man´s land of the internet.

A master, it turns out. The ambient of Matthew Florianz is very much like his cover art - doggedly minimalistic, monochrome, existing in a state of near stasis, almost sacral. Far from intimate, it is rather desolate, seeming to take in huge stretches of featureless geography at close range. At other times, the music defies gravity, as if observing weather systems sweeping across the face of the earth from above.

Ignorance of Florianz´ excellent work can be rectified by buying a nine-CD set (sold out) dominated by his work.

andy benford
e-dition print magazine

In the product info Matthew Florianz says ”I have been asked what this album is about and what it means. I’m reluctant to give an answer to that, partially because I don’t know for sure myself. Partially because I don’t want to colour people’s imagination when they listen to this album”. So we are given a sonic painting with which we are asked to allow our own images to be evoked. Hmmm, do I counter Matthew Florianz’s intent by saying what images arose for me as I played the music?

I quite enjoyed listening to this, especially when tired and half drifting off as the images became quite intense.

I would have given the album more stars but the first two tracks are 30 seconds of silence and 45 seconds of what sounds like a woodmill. The last track is also mainly field recordings, birds, footsteps, a car driving – towards the end some created sounds slowly rise and fall with another 30 seconds of silence at the end.

But tracks 3–7 are where the sonic paintings by Matthew Florianz evoke most deeply the sort of imagery he describes as his aim. Matthew Florianz creates a shifting and shimmering wall of sound with drones that sound delicate and complex. If you could hold one you might find many fragile layers closely woven together, creating something different from it’s parts. Some are discordant or metallic and others more harmonious, evoking a different imagery. Field recordings do appear in these tracks, wind, birdcalls and insects in flight amongst others, but I felt they supported and complemented the soundscapes they appeared in.

I have decided not to describe the imagery I saw. It may be that those who listen to the album will have to contact Matthew Florianz and share the effect the music has on them. Maybe he will say if it is close to what he sees, but maybe he won’t...

3½ Stars (out of 5)