The Tragedy That Drowned Itself (2012)

An old, dusty harmonium is the only proper musical instrument heard here, but instead of sounding like you’d expect a harmonium drone album to sound like, the recordings present focus on the mechanical aspects of the instrument. As in, creaking and wheezing sounds that you might not expect to come from the instrument, or might tune out if you were playing it or trying to record it. It sounds like a field recording type album, you swear you hear gusts of wind or rain, or maybe sounds you might expect to hear on a ship or boat. Along with all the pumping and scraping, there’s still plenty of minimal, somewhat melodic droning. The album’s centerpiece, a 20 minute piece called “The Horse”, has the harmonium loud and upfront, but accompanied by all sorts of gnarly gnashing and crackling sounds. “The Heart” starts out with windy, static-y sounds and ends up focusing on a thick bass drone sound. “The Dream” ends the album, probably with the most clear and blissful drone sound on the album, but still with some birdlike squeals and watery ripples.

Beats Per Minute (Ranked 2nd "Weirdo Album" of 2012)

Step one: be Dutch. Step two: find an abandoned Indian harmonium in someone’s basement. Step three: play the harmonium, but don’t focus on the droning tones it produces. Instead, listen to the creaky machinations of the instrument itself: “cranky wooden panels, the squeaking metal pins, and the airwaves escaping from the dilapidated bellows.” Step four: balance the wheezing groans and cranking pumping motions with minimal tonal drifts floating in the background, the inverse of a typical harmonium performance (in which the resultant drones are the focus and the sounds of the instrument itself are an overlooked by-product). Step five: shatter the listener’s expectations of how we approach and appreciate sound and performance. Laboriously show how even in drone music, the medium can very well be the message. Glean poignancy from said creaky machinations. Take as long as you need; Kaelen plays for over an hour on this record. Step six: divide the recording into five pieces, give them cryptically abstract titles (“The Horse,” “The Dream”), and call them a “tragedy” even though it’s anything but. This album is desolate and dreary yet strangely life-affirming, a stunning testament to the merits of old-fashioned human intervention in an increasingly digital industry. The Tragedy That Drowned Itself is not concerned with “what” music sounds like but rather how that sound happens, and it turns out to be a fascinating story we didn’t even realize needed to be told.

Gonzo Circus  (NL/BE magazine)

In het hoge noorden van Nederland zitten een aantal ondergewaardeerde geluidskunstenaars die daar in een eigen cocon mooie creaties maken, ver buiten het zicht van de Randstad en de drukte. Mendel Kaelen is er zo een en twee jaar na zijn debuutalbum 'Remembering What Was Forgotten' is het nu de tijd voor 'The Tragedy That Drowned Itself' op zijn eigen Sineszi label. Het verhaal van dit album begint met de vondst van een bestoft harmonium ergens in een kelder en dit instrument vormt de basis van het album, aangezien geen andere instrumenten werden gebruikt. Een tweedaagse studiosessie in Groningen was genoeg om alle opnames af te ronden en te kaderen. We beginnen in een wolk, het stof ruist om ons heen en het harmonium piept, kraakt en knarst langzaam tot leven. Er volgt een stroom aan geluid, hier en daar dof in de verte, laag en resonerend als een knorrende ontwaking uit een lange winterslaap. Als een paard komt het harmonium in galop en vindt haar innerlijke stem terug in lagen van trage glooiende tonen die melodieus in elkaar overlopen, met kleine tikjes en lichte stemgeluiden op de achtergrond die zorgen voor een organische sfeer. Het hart begint weer te kloppen, zuurstof pompend in lichte, hoge tonen en met een borrelende ruis. Na een paar melodieuze klankpatronen ontwaart een diepe drone die traag af daalt naar de benedenwereld in een steeds lage toon. Het eindigt met een mooie lange droom, die ons kalmpjes inpakt met veldopnames die evolueren tot een warme, dichte geluidsmist waarin we eeuwig zouden willen blijven sluimeren. Heerlijk innemende ambient van Neerlandse bodem.

Ambient Exotica

If The Penguin Orchestra had not released an album called Music For A Found Harmonium, chances are good that the Netherlands-bred, London-based Ambient musician Mendel Kaelen,who asked me to review his latest work, would have come up with a similar title, as it describes the intrinsic soundscape of his second full-length album perfectly. Actually called The Tragedy That Drowned Itself, its five tracks are based on one specific nucleus: a cranky Indian harmonium. This is not exactly the most beautiful instrument one might think of, but mind you, it provides a great source for delicate drones. You can only do so much with one single instrument, so Kaelen is forced to be creative and thus adds a variety of noises and field recordings as accompanying layers. In addition, the harmonium is, at least to my mind, heavily processed, filtered, altered, pinched and twisted, resulting in various tonalities and timbres, be it vibrating drone layers, mystified outbursts or gorgeously galactosamine cyberbird-resembling chirping sounds. Do not pay too much attention to the album title, as it implies vignettes of mourning and an overall sadness. These gloomy thoughts, however, are nowhere on this album. Or alternatively – just to put the album title into perspective anyway – the tragedy really has already drowned itself and leaves anything but a certain loneliness and nothingness on the one hand, and a resplendent harmony spiced with moments of happiness and content on the other. To round off these thoughts, look at the album cover, as it seems to show the gradual, well, gradient which links back to the similarities of the five different tracks, but also shows their differences. I will explicate my thoughts more detailedly below, but let me place one last relative clause at the end of this opening paragraph in order to put things into perspective: if Mendel Kaelen did not stress the fact that the soundscape is built with the help of one single instrument in addition to a few complemental crackles and field recordings, I would not have been able to pinpoint this fact.

The point of origin to Mendel Kaelen's endemic Dronescape is called The Cloud, and at first, everything seems perfectly normal: a slow and hazy fade-in phase full of blizzardous wind gusts, liquedous crackles, wooden creaks and the distant monotony of sine waves reminds much more of the field recordings of Chris Watson or the mild-mannered material of Francisco López rather than the prospect that is given by Kaelen himself. And yet there it is! After approximately two and a half minutes, the first tone burst of the Indian harmonium cuts through the thermal wideness, but keeps a low-profile otherwise. As positively gimmicky as this instrument is for this release, at least The Cloud is ultimately about the entanglement of different kinds of winds and storms. Even the spectrally stretched legato tones of the harmonium are only embedded here in order to accentuate the winds, not vice versa. Their inclusion furthermore adds traces of New Age manners to the mix, but, please excuse the worst of all puns, they are literally gone with the wind. The plasticity of The Cloud is remarkable, the listener is fully immersed by the aerial loftiness, and the plasticity of the blebs and splinters nurtures the process of encapsulation only further.

After the dark belly-massaging Drone-related windless lead-out section, The Stream follows next, and it is here that the harmonium is used more prominently, as it is placed next to an empty nothingness. There is no carved out backdrop. Whisper-quiet harmonium tones gyrate round vinyl-resembling crackles and similarly wooden clicks, forming a lacunar structure through which the echoey Space-Age bumblebee drones of the harmonium ooze eerily. The Stream encompasses one of the biggest strengths of the genre in that it takes all the time it needs without ever changing the soundscape forcefully. The duration of over eleven minutes provides a graceful tranquility, especially so when the vault-like harmonium tones mesh with their warmer, crunchier counterparts. Fans of the minimalistic school of electro-acoustic music will relate. Almost 20 minutes of runtime are reserved for The Horse, and it is here that Mendel Kaelen enters proper Drone territory, as this tune gleams and glints in technicolor, fully immersing the listeners in thermal heat and ethereal warmth. Launching with strange buzzes, bonfire-like crackles and a droning but non-threatening darkness, the drones of the harmonium brighten up after about two minutes already, injecting snugness and an aura of contentment to the mix. But it is getting better: the stylophone-esque timbre of the tone sequences is altered further and culminates many times into a euphoria that could not possibly build beforehand due to the ensuing minimalism. While you cannot hum along to the melodies, The Horse offers a wonderfully enchanting song structure that resembles Brian Eno's earliest works as well as the Japanese majesty of Tetsu Inoue's backing synths. The shifting warmth, the euphony and the ubiquitous gentleness of the various noises and slivers even remind in large parts on Simon Scott's 2012 opus Below Sea Level. It is the second-most accessible track Kaelen created for his sophomore album.

Up next is The Heart, an ever-changing Drone track with various phases: kicking things off with a granular mist of foggy pulses, enigmatic footsteps on a wooden floor and approaching windstorms akin to the opener, the arrangement soon enters its bubbling segue with scattered piercing harmonium tones encoated in a grey emanation. Everything is misty on this track, only the dry and sudden bass drones resemble a darker, potentially uneasy force. The third phase consists of a potpourri of sumptuous drones that tranquilize the listener with their purposeful monotony. The sine waves float by, among them a terrifically abyssal bass layer which works all the better when the winds fade out and there is anything else but the drones. The farther the composition progresses, the cozier its results become, as Kaelen delivers infusions of manifold bass layers. Both the electro-acoustic and the Drone genre are perfectly realized with this overtly minimal yet fully fleshed out, vibrating force. The auspiciously titled The Dream is the final track. And what shall I say – it perfectly transforms the title into sounds. If I were only allowed two words to describe it, these would be ethereality and rapture. The beginning of this track is based on two or three thin harmonium strings in unison, but even this almost whimsical ebb and flow of their aural nature is absolutely beautiful and euphonious, inheriting a peacefulness and balmy power that is aptly accompanied by chirping harmonium birds whose decay conflates with the gorgeous mélange. The sounds are pristine, almost purified, the short cameos of gurgling rivers are blissful, the chirping harmonium seemingly unreal. There is one track where my amazement about the harmonium-based sounds grows sky-high, and it is this final outing which sounds fuller and more complete near its end, as added bass drones boost the plasticity. A superb outro and the signature track of The Tragedy That Drowned Itself. Or is it?

To answer the final question of the previous paragraph, it depends on your viewpoint, as Mendel Kaelen's sophomore album features five tracks with a decisively different focus despite their overarching feature they have in common, namely that Indian harmonium. Whether you prefer a field recording-based windscape with infinitesimal harmonium flecks, a structure of emptiness where the little sounds whirr and float seemingly unperturbed, or a Pop Ambient construction with a euphorious good-natured mélange of well-texturized streams and stretched washes, The Tragedy That Drowned Itself has them all, even though its deliberate shortcomings suggest otherwise. It is in fact so tremendously varied and languorous even in its mystified surroundings that it is hard for me to link the cryptic album title to any of the five compositions. There is no tragedy attached anywhere nearby. The Dutch artist does his best to not reuse either the texture or the dynamics of the Indian harmonium. It does sound differently every time, and once this is not the case, the surroundings differ enough to let the instrument work on another level. Rest assured though that Kaelen never puts the instrument too much upfront in the mix. It is usually as important as the clicking vesicles, popping cuts and the field recordings. However, there are indeed times where the harmonium proves to provide the sole audible source of sound waves as depicted in the later stages of The Heart; it is then all about the most poignant, clearest form of Drone music. The Tragedy That Drowned Itself is a strong work that shows the powers of post-processing and good field recordings, true, but the overcoming of the limited concept itself – gentle melodies and arcane tones deriving from one instrument only – is the hardest part, and it seems to me that Kaelen eliminated this narrowing factor with ease. The long durations further allow the sounds to unfold. A great depiction of minimalism which is skillfully camouflaged.

Update Dec. 3, 2012: Shortly after publishing the review on November 28, Mendel Kaelen contacted me via email to stress one thing I could not ever have imagined heretofore, even though the press sheet attached to his release stated just that: The Tragedy That Drowned Itself comprises of anything else but the various tones, drones and flecks coming out of this Indian harmonium! Yes, even the chirping sounds, the hazy synth (!) washes and the distant mellow aura. Of course they are processed and altered, but their sole existence always derives from the harmonium as their original point of departure. I know that guitars and other stringed instruments can offer boundless of timbres and colors, but I did not have the harmonium on my radar. My original review as seen above will not be updated. My false perceptions boost the qualitative signs and the vivacious textures of the album even further, they really are this life-like. Mendel Kaelen got me fooled and flummoxed, and I for one am all the more impressed by his erudite soundscape!

Wonderful Wooden Reasons

Mendel is a return visitor to these pages having previously given us the very wonderful 'Remembering What Was Forgotten'.  This, his second album, brings him back to us in fine form. I hope he'll forgive me if I start this in a seemingly negative manner. At 70 minutes this album is far too long.  It's approximately twice as long as my attention span.  My comfort zone for an album is around the 40 minute mark, basically about the length of one side of an old C90 cassette. Anything beyond that and I'm starting to fidget and get distracted. So, with that in mind realise that the runtime here is an issue (for me) but, and I'm really happy to say this, it's the only issue. As before Mendel has created a textured soundworld from field recordings and tonal works.  This is immediately apparent on album opener, 'The Cloud' with its abrasive post-industrial ambiences. 'The Stream' has a haunting melancholy and such a sense of disconcerting eeriness that in the right place and the right mindset it can be a generally unsettling listen.  'The Horse' is a much more uplifting experience with the addition of lighter more triumphant sonorities that sing over the rougher textures.  'The Heart' is probably the least successful track here as it's latter half consists of some fairly characterless digital tones that feel slightly at odds with the rest of the album.  The album closes with the daybreak tones of 'The Dream' that leaves the album on a delicate, softly stated high.Like I said at the beginning, as a whole this album is far too long for my attention span.  It is however very nice indeed and split in half it is two very satisfying listens indeed.

Evening of Light

Given an indian harmonium to make an album with, I know I would be droning away happily for an hour. It’s the obvious thing to do. But give it to a sound artist like Mendel Kaelen, and you’d best expect the unexpected. I’m not sure if Kaelen literally took the harmonium apart piece by piece, but he has certainly treated it that way in terms of sound.

The five long tracks on this relaxing but at times estranging album are all constructed around the various noises that can be coaxed out of the instrument, particularly the non-standard ones. The wheezing of the bellows, the passage of air through various parts, the creaking of joints: these are some of the bodily – almost human – sounds that are given centre stage.

At the same time, he doesn’t go down the radical path of minimalism and tonelessness; the harmonium is allowed to breathe its intended musical notes at times, droning and calm, but it rarely dominates the tracks on The Tragedy. Instead, they set up a beautiful and precarious balance between music and what we might call accidental sound. It’s quite like the neck slides we always hear in acoustic guitar playing, but instead of being relegated to the background, peripheral noises are put on the same level as the music in Kaelen’s meticulous compositions. If I’m not mistaken, Kaelen incorporates some field recordings and electronic manipulations as well, but they never overshadow the natural sounds that form the heart of this album.

Like many good albums in this style, The Tragedy is excellent meditative ambient listening, but the harmonium sounds themselves are so full of character you’re bound to perk up your ears quite often during a playthrough, which indicates that attentive listeners will find much to savour here as well. Kaelen’s debut Remembering What Was Forgotten had the same eye for detail, but he really hits his stride with the original approach displayed on this follow-up record, and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with – or pulls apart – next time.


In december 2010, dutch composer Mendel Kaelen  surprised me with his impressive electro-acoustic music on "Remembering What Was Forgotten". His new album (his second full-length) "The Tragedy That Drowned Itself " is the debut release of a new UK/NL record label called Sineszi , aiming to publish contemporary electro-acoustic music and sound art. And quite a promising start that is!

This beautifully coloured digipack release (also available as a fairly priced digital download only) reveals intriguing sounds that are very enigmatic - especially since there's no mentioning of their origin in the liner notes of the album itself. To call "The Tragedy That Drowned Itself " a 'drone' release would not do it justice. There are drones, indeed, but they're fragmented and serve as background colouring for other sounds (as drones originally should). But it's not far from the truth, either, because all of these sounds originate from an old indian harmonium, the kind of instrument that was made especially to create drones.

Mendel Kaelen  found this instrument, covered in dust, in an old basement and its sounds inspired him. Not just the musical sounds, but also the (mostly somewhat hidden) sounds of the instrument mechanism at work. "Instead of focusing on the usual drones that the instrument produced, the recordings explicitly zoomed in on the cranky wooden panels, the squeaking metal pins, and the airwaves escaping from the dilapidated bellows. Background sounds that would normally be ignored as mechanical inconsistencies are here enlarged and play a prominent role on each track of the album."

In recent years, some artists started to include the sounds of their acoustic instrument in the recording process, instead of trying to conceal them (artists like Peter Broderick, Nils Frahm, Goldmund come to mind, although most of their music is not quite comparable to that on this release). Mendel Kaelen  takes this idea  a large step further, focussing on the crackling, breathing and moaning sounds like watching it through a microscope. The result is that the harmonium almosts sounds like a living being, working hard to produce the desired sounds, the sounds it was created for. And it's clear that succeeding in just that is not always an easy task for an instrument as old like this one. 

With this music, Mendel Kaelen  merges deep listening sounds with found sound/field recordings and musique concrête. If you're looking for comparisions, I guess there are hardly any. But if you insist, I'd say that there's a fair amount of Pauline Oliveiros meeting Chris Watson and then adding some John Cage in the process...

Vital Weekly 

Back in Vital Weekly 744 I was first introduced to the music of one Mendel Kaelen, then a student of neuro sciences, and a composer of ambient music. Although trained as a player of the spanish guitar, his CD 'Remembering What Was Forgotten' was a work of ambience and electronics. On his new release Kaelen explores an old Indian harmonium which he found in some basement. He spend two days of recording the instrument and then about a year treating the material. However by recording the instrument its not just playing some keys, but also recording the instrument in a more physical way: the wood panels, the metal pins, airwaves from the bellows and such like. The outcome of the work is something that is less drone based than his two previous works, but works much more as an electro-acoustic work, one that is only partially rooted in the world of drone music. its of course not absent, but its in 'The Horse', the third piece, that we fully hear this drone music being present. 'The Cloud' and 'The Stream' are interesting explorations of electro-acoustic sound, like touching upon surfaces rather than say drumming the object, if you get my drift. But even once the drones set in, the electro-acoustic rumble has not yet disappeared, like the radio wave like opening of 'The Heart'. It all makes rather mysterious ripples on the surface and some great music. Quite a bit away from the strict drone fields, but not too much different from what we already know. Maybe some of these pieces are a bit too long for my taste, and just a tad too minimal in development, but maybe this should be listened to in a state of semi-consciousness: half asleep, half awake. (FdW)


De jonge geluidkunstenaar Mendel Kaelen verraste eerder al met Remembering What Was Forgotten, een plaat die bol staat van duisternis, maar ergens een vonk aan lichtende hoop wist te bieden te midden van fieldrecordings en drones. Een instrument puur en alleen gebruiken zoals het bedoeld is, doet Kaelen ook op het nieuwe werkstuk The Tragedy That Drowned Itself niet. Verre van zelfs.

Ergens in 2011 vond Kaelen in een stoffige kelder een oud Indiaas harmonium. Denk gerust aan houtworm of -rot of een instrument dat van ellende bijna uit elkaar valt. Zuchtend en steunend, kreunend en knarsend bracht het oude beestje klanken voort. Die intrigeerden Kaelen zozeer dat hij ervoor koos om geen enkel ander instrument in te zetten bij het maken van de vijf composities die dit album vullen.

Onwillekeurig gaan de gedachten uit naar Leiff Elggrens 'Swedenborg's Organ' waarin een aftands orgel met een bijzonder verhaal centraal geplaatst wordt in een werkstuk waarvan je nooit zeker bent of het op waarheid berust of fictie betreft. Je moet Kaelen ook maar op zijn woord geloven dat hij nauwelijks effecten gebruikt heeft in de nabewerking. Zijn focus lag op de echte geluiden die het orgel voortbracht.

Dat levert stukken op die bol staan van klanken die het orgel in goede toestand niet zo een-twee-drie zou opleveren. Zo hoor je krakende houten panelen, blaasbalgen die lucht verliezen op verkeerde momenten en piepende metalen pennen. Zo hoor je nu eens niet een steriel opgepoetste opname zonder 'foutjes', maar alle achtergrondruis en mankementen van de aftakeling en afgetakelde toestand van het instrument. Drones en vervliegende melodielijnen zijn nooit ver weg, maar de 'noise' die het akoestische instrument zelf levert, zorgt voor een textuur die warmbloedig is en niet per definitie donker, naargeestig of kil. Het geluid voert je langs wolken en stroompjes, langs paarden en een romantisch hart en uiteindelijk in een droom als van breekbaar porselein. Zo omzichtig ga je ook met de plaat om: koesterend en voorzichtig, en juist dan ontdek je bij elke draaibeurt meer en meer in de haarscheurtjes van het glazuur, want in die barsten schuilt op The Tragedy That Drowned Itself een peilloze diepte van uiterste schoonheid.

Remembering What Was Forgotten (2010)

Evening Of Light

Some ambient music is a direct expression of the landscapes that engendered it. A good example would be a great deal of Scandinavian (dark) ambient, where desolate environments and long periods of light and dark leap vividly from the soundscapes. So, why couldn’t we do the same in the Netherlands?

Remembering What Was Forgotten by Mendel Kaelen might just be an attempt at achieving such an effect. The four long soundscapes on this album revolve around field recordings and lovingly produced synths and arhythmic percussion, such as rainmakers. The massive first track definitely goes in that direction, at least, giving center stage to water in many forms, that element so quintessential to Dutch culture. “Forgetting To Remember” links the theme of defective memory (or even dementia?) to barren, windswept musical landscapes, achieving a calm but melancholic whole. “In the stillness” continues in this vein with some treated minimalist piano sounds and soft drones. The final track builds up more intensity, coupling bright layered drones with more percussion.

Altogether, this is an ambient album by the book, with meticulous production and a level of refinement not often encountered in Dutch artists. As a quick comparison, I’d say it sounds a bit like Northaunt, transposed down a few degrees to Dutch latitudes. It is self-released on CD in a zen-like digipak, so quite professionally formatted as well. Mendel Kaelen has delivered very fine work here, that comes highly recommended to ambient lovers.

Wonderful Wooden Reasons 

Firstly my apologies to Mendel. I've had this fabulous album for a little while now and liked it so much I was carrying it around with me so I could keep playing it.  Of course the inevitable happened and it got misplaced.  Happily, earlier today it resurfaced so I can both listen to it again and also tell you all just how good it is. Kaelen operates in the area of psychedelic drone augmented by field recordings which is nothing we haven't seen or heard before but the deeply ingrained sense of effortless beauty that runs through the four constituent compositions is just sublime, even at it's most bombastic - 'Light of Nature' - it is still beautifully poised with a distinct sense of implied melody behind the drawn out tones.  I keep getting ridiculously lost in this album, only surfacing when the final chords die away and even then only long enough to press the play button again. An exquisite album. Hugely and unrepentantly recommended for all lovers of the magic of the drone.

Vital Weekly 

From Groningen (The Netherlands) hails one Mendel Kaelen, a student of neuro sciences, who wonders about the unconsciousnes: what are the limits of our perception and which aspects of our mind are closed of because of our modern lifestyle. That the objective side of a scientist in training, but on the subjective side  he works within sound art, with a strong interest in shamanism. Sound is an influence on us, conscious or subconscious. That's why it was, for instance, used for religious practices throughout many centuries. Kaelen is trained as a guitar player, mainly spanish guitar, but always had interest in music from Coil, Francisco Lopez, Alio Die and Thomas Koner and started with electronics and field recordings in 2006. He has worked with Machinist before and now releases his first full length album, with four lengthy compositions, in total over seventy minutes. It seems to me that Kaelen's interest lies within the creation of atmospheric moods, rather than creating a well rounded off composition of some kind. That of course is not a bad thing. In a fine interplay of instruments - mainly the processed guitar I think, field recordings (although hard to define which they are), computer processing and acoustic objects - I believe to hear the sounds of stones - he creates music that is best enjoyed at night, lying down, eyes closed, on repeat and all night - long after one is asleep. I am not sure if it will invoke of memories of what was forgotten, or wether anything else hidden will be revealed, but its surely great music. In terms of soundscaping closer to Alio Die than Lopez, this is a rather smooth work. Nothing new under this particular moon of atmospheric ambient music, but its made with some great imagination.  


Percepties en de grenzen daarvan vormen een centraal aandachtspunt in het werk van geluidkunstenaar Mendel Kaelen. Daartoe manipuleert hij geluid zowel via de weg van directe fysieke impact die frequenties op de luisteraar hebben, als via de route van de emotionaliteit van bepaalde (muzikale) klanken. Kaelen streeft daarbij bovendien naar een zekere metafysische loutering door zijn sonische werk in te zetten ten einde tot de top van de Maslowpiramide te geraken; als verklanking van hoop op de vervulling van de hoogste potenties van de mens.

In vier lange en bij elkaar meer dan een uur durende stukken werkt Kaelen met een veelheid aan klanken waarbij veldopnamen een belangrijke rol innemen. Zo herinneren componist en luisteraar zich samen de natte pracht van slagregens. Zuiverend voelt de neerslag bij Kaelen. In tegenstelling tot Regen van Joris Ivens waarin de stad gebukt gaat onder hoosbuien, spreekt hier de onaangeraakte natuur direct.

Tegelijk componeert Kaelen gedragen ambiente of naar Max Richter neigende neoklassieke, soms naar drones neigende partijen die de natuurgeluiden begeleiden en versterken. Op beide sonische vlakken werkt hij vakkundig met zowel fysieke impact van sublage of ijlhoge tonen en de emotionaliteit van melancholische toonzettingen. Het is in dat geslaagde huwelijk tussen natuur en techniek, tussen objectieve 'ware klanken' en subjectieve compositie dat Remembering What Was Forgotten zijn grote glans bereikt; met als belangrijkste pre dat in tegenstelling tot vele stijlgenoten in de duisterdere ambient of geluidkunst, Kaelen erin slaagt hoop in te zetten als doel en middel.


The first minutes of Mendel Kaelen's "Remembering What Was Forgotten"  are perfectly in line with its cover image: building from silence, slowly out of nothing, but gradually becoming clearer, crescending into an immersive and overwhelming wave of sound... before fading back to eternal rest.

The near 70 minutes of this album seem to breathe an immersive calm, the sound of nature's inevitability...maybe also the sound of 'Satori ', a Buddhist term for " a flash of sudden awareness, or individual enlightenment".

Mendel Kaelen is a composer from Groningen, Holland. "Remembering What Was Forgotten"  is his first full CD release, after previously released EP's together with Machinist. Sometimes the depth of his layered sounds remind me of some of the best work of Thomas Köner, although Kaelen clearly works from a different angle. The sources of this electro-acoustic music are mainly organic. Field recordings, sounds of stones, piano and (multi-layered) violin - resulting in this organic sounding drone music, and with an exceptional dynamic in intensity. 

It is not very often that I find an album this impressing from the first listen, and which even gains after repeated listens. "Remembering What Was Forgotten"  is self-released, not available on any label. Which is a shame, in fact, because it will hardly be discovered by those that may enjoy it. But the good news is: it can still be ordered directly from Kaelen's website .


Mendel Kaelen’s work, “Remembering What Was Forgotten”, a work of an independent composer and sound artist from the Netherlands, turns out to be the successful expression of stillness, associated with ambient music. The first track, “Satori”, contains different parts, with various moods, which supplementing each other, give rise to a complicated syctem of this track, which awake some warm feelings and restful condition. There are some drones in it, some field recordings, piano sounds, that is, variety of means are implied here to create a inimitable atmosphere of “Satori”, a state of sudden illumination, enlightenment. You also hear some percussion sector, which again enrich the texture of the ambience. Also I would like to distinguish the track “In The Stillness” with its mild expanded sounding, which justifies its name. Radiance and gladness, though not always obvious, is characteristic of the album. So, try to remember, what was forgotten with Mendel Kaelen.

Gonzo Circus

Geluidskunst en geluidsdesign, het beschrijven ervan in de terminologie van muziek blijft een draak van een karwei, te meer omdat de geluiden veelal vastgekoppeld zijn aan poëtische waarden of onderliggende emoties. Mendel Kaelen is een geluidskunstenaar uit Groningen die onder zijn echte naam produceert en met 'Remembering...' in eigen beheer zijn debuutalbum aflevert. Bij het ingaan van 'Satori' blijft het angstvallig lang stil en ik bevind me in de luwte van leeg geluid. Het begint te broeien, ik voel trillingen in de lucht en lichtschokkende aarde. Met Satori wordt hier verwezen naar de boeddhistische term waarbij men nieuwe inzichten vergaart om tot een voller bewustzijn te komen. Een spiritueel eureka! gevoel, kort gezegd. Dat gevoel blijft in deze lange compositie dertig minuten aanzwellen en het inzicht verandert in een peinzing. Na de hele plaat te hebben beluisterd, zinkt het patroon langzaam tot me in en komt het inzicht terug. Dat van de organische geluidspatronen, drones en terugkerende instrumentatie, met name ingetogen piano en overlappende strijkers. Kaelen legt in begeleidend schrijven uit dat hij zijn concept heeft gevormd op het immer terugkerende proces van herinneren en vergeten "Persoonlijke en spirituele groei is in essentie het herinneren van dingen die we al in ons hadden. Het inzicht tilt de sluier tijdelijk op en vergroot ons besef van de vergeten delen binnen ons bewustzijn." Hersenvoer voor de filosofische luisteraar bij het ontwaken van een nieuwe dag of het afsluiten van een oude dag. Deze release zal trouwe volgers van het geluid van MachinefabriekGreg Haines en Esther Venrooy goed kunnen bekoren.