Composers are often regarded as little more than the sum of their influences. As an organiser of the Antwerp Live Looping Festival, Overgaauw has been in close touch with the international looping community, which automatically puts his debut album under the Premonition Factory moniker in a long line of tradition. Dirk Serries of Vidna Obmana, Fear Falls Burning and Microphonics has acted as his creative mentor, suggesting links to Ambient and Minimalism. And one could easily imagine the Antwerp-based producer owning copies of Tangerine Dream’s early and mid-phase albums, Brian Eno and Harold Budd’s „The Pearl“ or some of Klaus Schulze’s more atmospheric works. Contacts and connections are plentiful, inspirations abound and as such, his debut could well have turned out nothing but a precisely realised amalgamation of everything he considers inspiring and important.
„59 Airplanes waiting for New York“ now proves just how wrong that cynical view of the arts really is. Overgaauw has been frank about the importance of Serries, who also took on mastering duties in the later stages of the process. And yet, there are worlds between the latter’s first Microphonics-full-length and „59 Airplanes“ – and not just, because Overgaauw is making use of Synthesizers rather than a Guitar here. In comparison, the world of Premonition Factory is made of a considerably more colourful palette, as richly humming choir clusters softly crash into tectonically shifting drone-plates and metalically rattling dulcimers meet sweetly whirring fluorescence. Thematic lines are less complexly interwoven, shifts more openly traceable, textures less confoundingly convoluted, for- and background more clearly separated. In terms of sound, this is creating a spacious, calmly breathing, harmonious yet panoramically deep continuum of weightlessly moving elements.
At the heart of this cosmic concoction is a compositional technique described by Overgaauw as „interactive live looping“, which can be summarised as a continuous, exponentially growing communication between performance and feedback, between spontaneous musicality and automated processes. At select moments, when a motive returns in a semitonally pitched appearance for example, one can actually detect the subtle workings of the process and the way it is underpinning the action. Most of the time, however, it is submerged into a floating mosaique of colours, shapes and shadows. „Interactive live looping“ encourages long solitary jam sessions, but Overgaauw places less importance on the act of building his soundscapes than on highlighting those exciting occurrences when a touch of magic suddenly takes over and formerly directionless ambiances melt together into a cogwheel-like machinery.
The fact that these tracks were carefully edited out of extended improvisations is therefore not a compromise but exactly what awards them this floating, unreal quality: They don’t begin, they don’t end, they don’t develop in any traditional way and they don’t ever really go anywhere. Rather, they float along the paperway of a moebius strip, always in flux yet never really advancing. As a listener, you’re locked into these immersive spaces like an astronaut in orbit and it is a sensation of both great peace and humility at the sight at something indescribably more powerful than yourself.
At just over 50 minutes, „59 Airplanes waiting for New York“ is anything but a nostalgic recourse to the far shorter durations of the Vinyl format and to what Steven Wilson called „the golden age of the album“. And yet, with its architecture of five medium-length pieces and one epic meditation as well as its organic oscillation between different moods and approaches, it oozes a classical feeling nonetheless. There is a strong sense of dynamics, as the album hums silently for almost ten minutes on the breathtakingly intense „Needless to Say Anything“, but intersperses the tranquil moods of „Only Birds know where to Fly“ with sparks of sizzling electricity.
Overgaauw may be frank about the support he has received for this record, but his music speaks books about the ambitions hiding underneath. When the galactic hiss and solitary Piano droplets of the title track are suddenly washed over by synthetically shining cinematic strings, the pulse rate accelerates and what seemed to nothing but a dreamy Ambient track is transformed into a utopian piece of film-noir-orchestrals. It is at this point, at the very latest, that one realises that his vision could never be reduced to the mere sum of his influences.
By Tobias Fischer