Free-jazz vocalist Greetje Bijma teams up with electronic producer Oceanic for a freestyle collaboration !
This project has its roots in a chance meeting between Yeyeh founder Pieter Jansen and Bijma, a legendary figure on the Dutch jazz scene who in 1990 became the first woman to win the country’s top jazz accolade, the VPRO/Boy Edgar award. Apart from having previously worked with the likes of Anna Homler (aka Breadwoman), Jasper van ’t Hof, Han Bennink, Louis Andriessen and Willem Breuker and her own solo projects, she’s in a league of her own.
Jansen is a big fan of Bijma’s 1996 heavily electronic collaboration with Jasper van’t Hof and Pierre Favre, Freezing Screens, and was with the friend who first introduced him to it when he bumped into Bijma.
Excited to meet someone who had made one of his favourite records, Jansen took the opportunity to ask Bijma if she would be interested in working with young electronic music producers. To Jansen’s delight, Bijma quickly agreed.
Weeks later, Bijma stepped into the studio with Oceanic, a rising star of the Dutch electronic underground whose releases as Oceanic for Nous’klaer Audio and BAKK Plafond revolve around mechanical rhythms, opaque ambient textures, minimalist melodic movements and effervescent electronics. The pair quickly connected on an emotional and musical level, with Bijma taking her cues from Oceanic’s electronic sounds and rhythms, and Oceanic drawing inspiration from Bijma’s dexterous, mind- bending and otherworldly vocalizations.
After two hugely productive days, the cross-generational duo had completed a couple of mesmerizing songs – breathlessly haunting album opener “Swallow a Party” and chilly ambient closer “A Window Drifting” – and recorded several hours or improvisations that Oceanic later edited, layered-up and re-modelled.
The results are little less than spellbinding. The range and versatility of Bijma’s vocalizations is breathtaking, while Oceanic’s music – which cleverly incorporates the free-jazz singer’s vocal notes, tones and proclamations – swings between becalmed beauty and breathless intensity.
Some of the set’s most striking moments are those where Oceanic re-contextualizes Bijma’s varied vocal sounds with the dancefloor in mind. On the pulsating “Technicolour Memories”, up-tempo “Step Snakes” and hypnotic “Never Done”, Bijma’s scat outbursts not only ride Oceanic’s rhythms, but also form part of the densely layered percussion tracks beneath.
Like the release’s more downtempo and ethereal moments, these hybrid organic- synthetic compositions defy easy categorization, offering a unique brand of alien electronic/acoustic musical fusion that lingers long in the memory
Record Of The Week W38 by Rogier Oostlander
Make sure you don’t sleep on one of the most interesting projects of the year - the unlikely collaboration of young electronic music maverick Oceanic (not to be confused with the cheesy UK eurohouse outfit of the same name) and Dutch free jazz improvisation diva Greetje Bijma.
Oceanic, who recorded for Nous'klaer, Bakk and De Nieuw (the Rush Hour bestseller ‘Live at De School’) met the awarded avantgarde vocalist who is best known for her work with groundbreaking artists like Jasper van ‘t Hof, Willem Breuker, Louis Andriessen and Han Bennink by chance and decided to pop the question straight away.
A bold move that resulted in an album that sounds great on paper, but even better on vinyl. It’s a combination we would never have thought of, but works out even better than expected.
Starting off with the understated title track, Bijma is quick to bend her vocal chords towards the unexpected, switching from conventional singing to indecipherable throat tones and strangely pitched operatic notes and back in a matter of seconds.
Things get even more interesting when Bijma’s vocal utterings are used as a more rhythmic companion to Oceanic’s more dancefloor-oriented backdrops. Quirky scats are woven into hypnotic patterns on the Stingray-inspired broken electro stepper ‘Step Snakes’ and ritualistic utterings, animalistic howls and operatic notes dance around in a frenzy on the housey ‘Never Done’.
Short vocal snippets are cut and flipped to match the breakneck speed of the neurotic ‘Technicolour Memories’, with Oceanic and Bijma moving into minimal music territory on ‘Mist and Tide’ and postmodern classical on ‘A Window Drifting’, resulting in a bold and freeflowing album that’s certainly not for everyone, but a feast for the open-minded.