Pieter Nooten – Stem

[Reviewed by Peter Marks]

Another five years have passed since we heard from Pieter Nooten last; funny thing, time, it really doesn’t have much bearing on what he does musically. The fads come and go, the blossom of youth fades from another series of pop progeny but his work flows above, below, around and through all of it. It is as though he’s tapped into some kind of primordial process by which the music he composes is made to outlast everything else; to walk away from this guy’s material is to have had your entire outlook changed forever… he’s been doing this to me for over three decades now.

Sunrise. Sunset. Spring. Summer. Autumn. Winter.

There is a rhythm behind these and somehow Nooten has managed yet again to depict them all simultaneously through the usage of just a few notes. I have tried, oh how I have tried to understand his ability to draw out so much from so little, to no avail. He takes his time fashioning this deliriously intoxicating art which we greedily wolf down in a listen or two, haughtily patting ourselves on the back for being so eclectic; for him it is the result of continual revision and inconceivable detail. That he spent a session at RealWorld studios during the making of ‘Stem’ only adds to the labyrinthine nature.

There are real strings to be heard, yes, but they’re mixed in with such deft skill that I’m still unable to tell which is which. Then you have some of his trademark pitch shifts and sublime chord manipulations which so define his material slipping this way and that, pulling the focus wherever he wants to put it. Without giving the game away too much let me just say that when he gave us ‘Haven’ he broke through into a new realm of creative possibilities, on his latest he continues exploring this tantalizing locale to devastating effect.

Whatever it is that he’s seeking to convey I can just barely make out as it passes through these silken compositions wrought from an endless parade of grey; this may be a metaphor for how we grope somewhat blindly to make our way through life and it might only be more of his penchant for ambiguous, enigmatic solace but no matter where in the world you are or who you’re with: this collection of ten is going to pull you out of everything into a gorgeous netherworld propelled by equal parts memory and desire.

Impossible to maintain yet irresistible for the duration.

Pieter NootenStem
Rocket Girl, RGIRL115
CD/LP/Digital 2018

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