on stage

All the way up |

Under the Surface at Bunker Ulmenwall in Bielefeld

Text & Fotos: Stefan Pieper

Bielefeld, 28.01.2022 | The Dutch band "Under the Surface" has already toured many countries in the Middle East, Central Africa, South America, China and Indonesia - only Germany was missing on the map so far. Now Sanne Rambags (vocals), Bram Stadhouders (guitar) and drummer Joos Lijbaart have filled this gap in the Bunker Ulmenwall. This sound world does not let you go so quickly....

"Today we go under the surface" Frank Ay, the artistic director alluded to this band and at the same time built an intersection to this venue in East Westphalia and its aesthetic programmatic. But the now coming music and sound experience rose above intersections and categories, so that even the retelling in the context of a concert report must remain vague.
The floating sounds, spherical harmonies, especially the huge spatiality, which voice plus guitar plus drums produce, do not drag down, but let the music rise to the sky. The "fourth band member" is mainly responsible for this - namely sound engineer Ted Masseurs. He controls extensively especially the reverb and makes the listening room so wide and big that you feel like you are in a cathedral and not in a former air raid shelter.


Bringing home from foreign cultures

The musical world of ideas in this trio reaches even higher in this sound ambience. Guitarist Bram Stadhouders guitar playing alone is a voice in itself. Never with too many notes, his improvisations mark dream formations in the vast universe. Percussionist Joos Lijbaart controls the processes in the last instance, which in every moment testifies to a holistic awareness of this free cosmos. Sanne Rambags, acting as if in a trance state, shows many things that seemed conceivable or even unthinkable so far in terms of vocal mastery. This does not exclude unleashed expressive gestures, nor does it prevent the vocal line from flowing into a folk song fragment.
Like a master of ceremonies, she occasionally reaches for a peculiar instrument: metal rods are mounted on a round disc, which are bowed with a double bass bow, producing metallic flagolette tones. Precious souvenirs from the trio's extensive world travels are also in use: the guitarist operates a Bolivian charango and a traditional stringed instrument from Central Asia at times. Sanne Rambags sometimes sits on the floor and accompanies her singing with a small harmonium, which is found in religious North Indian-Pakistani music and became famous in the Western world through Nusrat Fateh ali Khan, for example. But: "Under the Surface" live up to their band name here. Influences of their extensive world travels are not quoted or copied, instead the magic and mysticism of many visited places works on a subconscious level. This ensures that everything that happens in the two sets comes across as neither abstract nor abrupt, but touches with a great deal of lyrical tenderness.


It is about the feeling of freedom

Exotic sufi-trance music? Ambient? Freely improvised old-school ECM jazz? Post-rock? Like travel, music is about the feeling of freedom. The sound of "Under the Surface" consistently eludes any attempt at categorization.

Perhaps that's why sound engineer Ted Masseurs provided a helpful frame of reference for the audience before and after the concert: A recorded solo record by Arve Henriksen prepares the launching pad, so to speak, before the start. A recording by John Hassel/Brian Eno helped for a soft landing afterwards, after the last encore had faded away.

So far, "Under the Surface" has released two CDs, in which the open concept takes very different forms. Currently a third album is in the works, on which for the first time also more strongly through-composed structures have found their way. Likewise, it will not remain with this single appearance in the country: At the Morgenland Festival in Osnabrück, which will take place this year between June 4 and 18, Sanne Rambags (vocals), Bram Stadhhoudeser (guitar) and drummer Joos Lijbaart will deliver another, presumably again completely different sounding sample of their fantasy. We will announce the actual date soon....