Denhollander, Denhollander, I hear you think, is this a new project, because I don't know the name yet? Well, yes, actually. It is the project of Remco den Hollander, the keyboard player of Downriver Dead Men Go. In 2018 I had the pleasure to interview Remco, together with Gerrit Koekebakker ( see interview), his buddy at Downriver. I also wrote the review for their second album Departures (see review).
I can best describe the music that Downriver creates as intense and emotional music that you have to experience, but of course sitting on the couch, in the semi-darkness and certainly with headphones on, or over the speakers with a strong volume, that makes the intensity greater. Lyrically, deep-seated emotions are also touched.
Remco will turn half a century in 2021 and that is why he thought it was more than time that he was allowed to launch his own project, after always being in the service of other bands. Over the years he has collected hundreds of pieces of music and eventually made a selection of 11 pieces that ended up on this debut album Birth Of A Lifetime. Remco approached me a while ago to see if I was interested in possibly writing a review for this. Since I have a good feeling about Remco, the answer was quickly found. The question was whether his music would suit the readers of the Background Magazine website, given the cinematographic nature of the music. Personally, I think it fits, if only because of the great diversity of instruments that come along on the album. And yes, the music is especially not heavy in the sense of speed, lots of solos or bombast, but it is all the more heavy how it responds to your feelings and inner experiences that you have experienced in your own life. It is not without reason that the accompanying text tells us that Remco spent a lot of time alone in his growing up phase because his parents were busy with their business. Music has allowed Remco to survive, here he could create his own enviroment that would lead him away from loneliness and let him keep going in the world.
Remco himself has recorded a great deal of the music. Not everything, here and there he has had the help of musical friends. While I read who was among the musicians, I noticed the name of Steen Gees Christensen, who coincidentally also played on Downriver's latest album. Steen plays duduk and this is a very pleasant-sounding wind instrument. Music from a different angle than we are used to in the progressive rock genre. But nevertheless, very welcome, because progressive still means progressive and different from how we already know it. The cello also plays an important role in the album, played by Jonas Pap.
When we look at the cover of the CD, the image ties in with the lonely life that Remco has known. I think it is a joke that if you changed the colours of the cover to more cheerful colours, you would get a different picture of the music, That still needs to be discussed. So that's how much colours can do. All photos printed in the booklet are by Remco himself, besides music he has several talents!
Every now and then I enjoy exploring all the pieces of music and describing them to the reader. This time I am not going to describe all pieces of music but I want to share a number of striking pieces with you. Not because the rest is not interesting, but because these are fascinating to me.
The album opens with Out From The Blackness, a straightforward title. Keyboards come at you and become more and more intrusive; you cannot escape them. After a while Steen comes in with his duduk and you discover that this is such a beautiful instrument, just as penetrating as the intro.
Somewhere On Unending Roads then. This song picks up where No Man's Land ends, it flows nicely into each other. Beautiful cello comes to you, together with the blues harp of Arie vd Plas, delicious and oppressive at the same time, you can let yourself be carried along with this kind of music by all kinds of pictures that you create yourself. The concept of loneliness is nicely cast in music, you cannot ignore it. For me a highlight of the album, so much atmosphere, impressive. Here you will find out again what music can mean for a person.
Dry Land opens oppressively with special sounds and tones, you can prepare yourself for a new musical journey, one that is completely different from its predecessor. Personally, this song makes me very emotional, simple but so profound, you literally feel the mood that Remco had to feel when he touches the instrument. This song is also a highlight for me.
First Day Of Winter starts in a minor key, you just see the snow falling and you are actually waiting in the doorway for the person who will bring some bad news to you, this is the thought I had. No, it is not really easy to digest the music, but that does make it stick. Every keystroke on the piano comes in, hits you like a hammer, very impressive. It is an art to match the diversity of instruments, wow.
First Day Of Winter flows into The And where a man tells something in a language unknown to me, the headline is immediately off. The cello makes its entrance. This remains such an unprecedentedly beautiful instrument to create the right atmosphere. The depression also drips from this song, tears are inevitable. What pain Remco must have felt in the past, respect.
After recovering from this we move on to The Anger The Longing And The Hope. Once again it opens ominously and here band mate Gerrit picks up the electric guitar. You can hear the anger in the song, but it all seems to be contained anger, which seems to be allowed out at some point, when the song is a little more up-tempo. The song flows into In Noctum which also opens ominously. Here we hear the cello again, which also fits nicely into the picture. Beautiful vocals without lyrics come to you and again you feel the tears coming.
For me, resonance is central to Days Before The Flood. You hear quiet hits on various instruments and it should not be fast, but rather as slow as possible to allow the vibrations to enter your system as deep as possible and to carry out the work there that is needed, it works therapeutically. It is not without reason that there is half a minute of silence at the end of the song, you can return to the moment it is.
A video has been made for four songs that you can watch at YouTube, they are No Man's Land, Somewhere On Unending Roads, First Day Of Winter and The Last Citadel Of The Black Snow Plains. In the second song you see endless roads in all kinds of fragments, in the third one many winter pictures and with the other two a lot of nature. It supports the music fine, although I prefer not to see pictures because I prefer to create them myself.
All in all, this is an album that really manages to reach all the fibres in your body. It is a very personal and intense album for which I am extremely grateful and can only make a deep bow to Remco.
***** Michel Stolk (edited by Dave Smith)
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