Earlabs (published: June 29th 2008)
Written by Sietse van Erve / RATED: 8.5 / 10
Franz Fjödor – Exhibition
Exhibition, the new album by Franz Fjödor (Wouter Jaspers), is a dark almost depressing road trip through Eastern European cities and empty landscapes. Going from dark ambient soundscapes to trance inducing psychedelic folk/drones it is a good introduction to the music of this young musician from Tilburg, The Netherlands.
Maybe it’s the air, or maybe it’s in the water, but certainly there is something happening in Tilburg, The Netherlands. When I grew up there as a teenager it was very clear that this city, 6th biggest in the country, had something with music. Loads of bands in the pop, rock and punk scene were booming. Though, as peep in my puberty I was also looking around for other things, more experimental music. When I was 17 years old I had a huge fascination with electronic music going from aphex twin and autechre to lustmord and raison d’etre.. But never found anything that was comparable to this from Tilburg except for the old ambient techno gurus Psychic Warriors Of Gaia. Now 12 years on in my life, still pretty much a young bloke, I get this promo cd in from a small Dutch label called Vatican Analog and one could only guess that this is actually run by a group of young musicians and artists from that same old city that never had anything with electronics where I grew up. Some of the names that come up when looking further into this label are Vincent Koreman, who also produces music as Ra-x, Staplerfahrer, who is no-one less but our own Steffan de Turck here at EARlabs, and some less known names such as Wouter Jaspers who had the pleasure record the music on the cd that is in the player right now. Under one of his monikers Franz Fjödor he presents us a shining disc called Exhibition.
Reading some information on this young bloke I become really surprised that I have never heard of him before. In 2007 Wouter Jaspers toured through Europe and Russia to do over 140 live performances, he released several cdr’s, tapes and mp3 releases on labels such as Zeromoon, TIBproductions, Dirty Demos and much more. Not even to mention all the side projects he is working with. During his many travels Jaspers recorded many field recordings which lay the base for the songs on this album. With recordings from places such as Terezín and Chernobyl I do not think it needs an explanation that this music is dark, heavy and emotionally loaded. Besides the field recordings on this album we hear electronic sounds and instruments played by guest musicians such as guitar (by Bram Stadhouders) and cello (by Eileen Janssen). The outcome is a combination of slow evolving drones and dark ambient music. Two of the songs really grabbed me mainly Exhibition because of it has some amazing field recordings of people on the streets combined with haunting drones from the cello and guitar. It builds up a tension that really drags you in.
The other song that really grabbed me was the last one Boryspol which starts out really calm and turns out to some psychedelic folk/drone piece. At first you only hear very distant scrapping sounds or maybe a train whistle somewhere echoing between mountains, but after just a little more than 1 minute a guitar loop fades in. This loop induces a trance like feeling which doesn’t go away for a while. Pulsating sounds and at some point even some vocals add to this experience. Eventually to turn into one really nice drone that could come from the cello again. One of the nicest tracks I have heard so far this year. Exhibition is a really lovely album that could use a little bit more consistency, but still is a job done well. Now I only keep wondering why there wasn’t something like this when I still live in Tilburg, or at least why I didn’t know it. Maybe the people of this city finally got what they needed. Some people to shake up the music scene some more.
Again another great act from the Netherlands. Let’s keep our eyes out for more from Vatican Analog.
Written by Willem Roose
Franz Fjödor – Exhibition
Franz Fjödor is one of the many projects of Wouter Jaspers, now in his mid-twenties. After having earned his scene-creds in heavy metal and electro/gabberhouse, he comes up with this cd, and its something totally different. On Exhibition it’s the ambience that counts: minimalistic, thrilling and most of all: dark. Think a strangening soundscapesound that slowly evolves into the sound of a polar wind, while somewhere you hear the screaming sound of an old door that cannot resist the wind. Something like that. This is music you don’t only hear, but also feel. Alone in the dark, although I have to admit this could also be a great soundtrack for the last summer.
- You got to love it!
+Excellent for a nice night out on Pole Nord!
Musique Machine (published: July 14th 2008)
Written by: Martijn Busink / Rating: 4/5
Franz Fjödor – _Exhibition
Young Dutch musician Wouter Jaspers calls himself the more or less the ‘hardest working man’ of the experimental music business as he performs a lot (160 shows last year) and often with the intention to engage with the audience as much as possible.
He sung in a metal band and worked with noise groups like The Jim Morrisons and Cock Cobra, among many other ongoing projects like 4daladies, Gays With Machines and Meldy Peaches. Recordings are released on many imprints including one run by the collective of which he’s part: Vatican Analog. On top of that he wrote a new book to be released in autumn this year and inbetween things he finds time to travel (I suppose combined with performances of course).
On _Exhibition he works under the pseudonym Franz Fjödor to deliver mellow organic drones mixed with a dark folky approach. Often, besides more toneless ambience there are hints of chords and mood. Sometimes this harmony gets more prominent, like the melancholic cello’s that make up a large part of _Dzido. Field recordings are used like in opener _Terezin. The knowledge that the unrecognizable sounds are from the WW2 concentration camp in Therezienstadt makes the atmosphere darker but more by the specific knowledge than by sound alone. The same goes for _Geigercounting, where an ad hoc interview with a dauntless Ukranian busdriver who reasons he’s only shortly exposed to the radiation of Chernobyl. That it happens daily seems a minor detail. I must say that spoken word samples sometimes tend to break the spell of atmospheric music like this a bit. But it’s a minor peeve, the album’s closing track _Boryspol. The guitars still fit in well with the organic drones presented before but the fragile vocals caught me off guard. This is easily solved with a second spin so no harm done. The bio mentions Burzum as an influence but I can’t find that, the closest to my ears is some of Nurse With Wound’s drone work. It’s stated that _Exhibition isn’t a concept nor a protest album but it raises ‘awareness’, personally I’ve come to wonder what this ‘awareness’ really is and how it can serve us, but regardless this is first and foremost a dark but not suffocatingly bleak collection of ambient drones. Actually, a rather pleasant listen. Something that might change when the likes of John Wiese and Sudden Infant laid their hands on this material on the remix album that will be released later this year
Gonzo (Circus) (published: Nov 9th 2008)
Franz Fjödor – Exhibition
“When Franz Fjödor goes on a trip with his recording equipment, he’s just called Wouter Jaspers. The sounds he registers, are deformed and tranferred into psychedelic drones that from time to time are very close to dark ambient. From the first second of this debut album it becomes clear that we are not talking about beach holidays here: industrial hum and hiss, astranging voices and a few melancholy droning instruments (guitar and cello). Sometimes it appears that folky fingerpicking will make the album a bit lighter to digest (Lustmord meets Current 93), until you find out the track is called “Geigercounting”. We ride in a taxi through the Ukraine, in the direction of Tsjernobyl, and the driver doesn’t care anymore he doesn’t have the most healthy work environment – that atmosphere. “Exhibition” graps our full attention while listening to it (by some passages we don’t even dare to move), and that is a compliment as your know how many similar cd’s we already have behind us. We are not the only ones convinced by the qualities of Franz Fjödor, amongst others John Wiese and Sudden Infant already have the plan to remix his material.”
“Heathen Harvest” (published: Feb 1st 2009)
Franz Fjödor – Exhibition
Franz Fjödor is the nom de plume of the young musician and writer, Wouter Jaspers, whose release of “Exhibition” on his own label, Vatican Analog, is his recorded musical debut exploring darker elements of sound fiction by way of field recordings from his many travels on the way to performances across Europe. A throaty rasp, pinned, stretches out a tunnel of rough edges and gossamer perspective that renders the journey almost purblind where echoes ricochet infinitely peppering off the walls left to right, right to left. Dense winds surge and retreat, tidally forcing the scraped noise in waves of languorous sinisterity. Despite the lack of ocean samples there is a definite feel of immersion, of sublimation into some diluvial miasma.
The use of cello and vocals by Franz Fjödor come by way of guest musicians, detailed in the liner notes, and cello sparks an opening of the eyes or an awakening from the previous lengthy feature of somnambulic drowning. The yawning of the strings is a guttural saw twixt two notes, constantly rising and descending, passacaglia that recalls the littoral quality previously evoked. Mr. Jaspers stretches out ribbons of his sampled noise that shimmer distant mechanical oscillations over the cello in drawn-out passages dark and melancholy.
Not that it is all swollen and deflating drones. Sampled voices churn out from rustling backgrounds, subsumed in minimalist industry, sub-aquatic machinery dripping echoes of pulses and softly tractive loops. Dulcet guitar tones are finger-picked to Casio chimes and slender punctuative pops where the rustling of the Geiger counter is like the heartbeat of something that shouldn’t be heard, let alone be close to.
On the final track guitar thumbs a stable bass for song-form and vocals for the first time applied to the linear yet isolated roaring that dominates “Exhibition”, a haunt of intimacy steeped in a fug. “Exhibition” comes packaged in a standard jewel-case format, with full colour glossy insert and four-page booklet. The artwork is one of crusted photography, a looking glass inside a subway cart where people cluster like moths about the fluorescent railed lights stretching out interesting perspectives and instances: faces and bodies or scenery blurred.
Vital Weekly (published June 25th 2008)
Written by Frans de Waard
Although I reviewed music by Wouter Jaspers, also know as Franz Fjödor before, I never had a good impression what his music is all about. It seems that he likes to confuse the listener, so that we never know what he is about (call in Herr Freud please). Following a string of net releases and CDRs (for labels such as TIBproductions (NO), Kourlyk Records (BE), Black Syndicate (NL), Goldsoundz (NO), Dirty Demos (UK), Zeromoon (US) and Emerson, Lake and Headache (RU)), there is now on his own (shared) label Vatican Analog a first proper CD release. On his myspace we read that he likes The Dark (his capitals, not mine) using hand-made instruments to create drones, depressed noise and dark folk. Now dark folk is something that I never want to approach – I do like dark things, and maybe even folk, but I’m allergic to the combination thereof.
So I started playing this CD, prepared for the worst. What a relief: it’s a very fine CD. Jaspers is young (22) and despite that age, he’s music sounds quite mature, well perhaps for that piece in which he sings. To like The Dark is something that belongs to the youth, no longer to me, an old man. It’s not a bad song, actually, but it’s a bit out of place. In the other, instrumental pieces (save for some spoken bits, recorded in Chernobyl), he displays a love of all things dark indeed and drone based. Taking field recordings, from his many travels (he played 140 concerts in one year!), playing acoustic objects (like he does with Preliminary Saturation, his duo with Staplefahrer), he plays some very nice moody tunes. ‘Voryspol’ is the only real sung song, which works well in it is minimalist approach, but the singing is not my thing. It’s at the end however. Best piece I thought was ‘Geigercounting’, using the aforementioned Chernobyl recordings. A scary piece of music. Throughout a work that is well made, and a most promising start. Remix album is already in the works. (FdW)