Martyn - Voids
by Tom Graham
Last year, the Dutch-born Martyn unfortunately suffered from a near-fatal heart attack. The first thing he listened to after leaving hospital was M’Boom, a jazz percussion album released by the drummer Max Roach in 1979. This experience served as a catalyst for Deijkers’ return to the studio after his recovery. Speaking about Roach’s project, Deijkers said, “I could hear so much space in the music, something I had never noticed before; almost like a 3D experience, with the most striking aspect being the emptiness between the players.”
It is easy to see why M’Boom was so resonant with Deijkers – the percussive elements of his production have consistently been the defining elements of his style. With Voids, Deijkers’ fourth album, and his first for exclusive Berlin club Berghain’s in-house record label Ostgut Ton, Deijkers continues his exploration of the dynamic space created by the merging of techno and UK bass. His signature reverbed, hollowed rhythms take on a new meaning in the context of the bold, Berghain-shaped sound that he incorporates. For instance, ‘World Gate’ has all the hall-marks of a classic Martyn track – echoing rave stabs and hypnotic vocals sit above a low-slung UK funky beat – yet, the percussion sounds more intricate and polished than any of Deijkers’ previous work. It is as if Martyn has been able to utilise the “emptiness between the players” more effectively, giving resonance to the spaces in the music – giving significance to the voids.
In a recent interview with Sven Von Thülen, Deijkers spoke of getting into dance music as drum and bass producers started to gravitate towards techno in the late 90s, and felt most connected to pioneers of the ‘techstep’ sub-genre that was emerging at that time, with artists like Ed Rush and Doc Scott on the frontline. Deijkers’ percussion can perhaps be seen as an attempt to bridge this space between bass-driven, 160bpm+ music, and more brooding, four-to-the-floor dance music. His distinctive, hardcore-inspired techno sound fills the void between these two poles.
This affiliation with drum and bass music manifests itself most powerfully on ‘Mind Rain’, which offers the most dynamic showcasing of Deijkers’ artistic prowess. It opens with a low-pitched, pulsing note that portends something ominous – the calm before the storm. Propulsive polyrhythms then follow, like a torrent of rain frenetically plummeting to the ground, while the growling sub that emerges adds even more ferocity to the track.
A sense of anxiety and paranoia pervades several of the tracks on Voids. ‘Cutting Tone’ features a dread-laden, high-pitched drone and a body-popping, distorted garage beat, as if a crowd of hysteric dancers are convulsing to a manic groove. On ‘Voids Two’, a woman’s monotone voice repeats the words ‘explosive decompression’ while a siren beeps, like some impending disaster is approaching. Again, however, it is the dexterity of Deijkers’ percussion that steals the show – one snare hit sounds almost like someone gasping for air, or the panicked breath of someone who knows their time is running out.
Despite the frenzy and urgency of several parts of the album, Deijkers leaves room for a more thoughtful cut on ‘Manchester’. Its shuffling 2-step rhythm sounds hollower and more restrained than any of the other tracks on Voids, as a voice laments, ‘deep deep talent’ and ‘we’ve lost a big one’. As well as being an ode to the city of Manchester and its music scene, the track is dedicated to Marcus ‘Intalex’ Kaye, a drum and bass prime-mover, who was up-and-coming in the 90s, and who sadly passed away last year. Kaye was a close friend of Deijkers, who wrote on Instagram, “I met Marcus sometime around 1998 and our musical lives have been intertwined ever since. After his passing, I once again realized the importance of putting more effort into friendships and not let the people you love turn into Facebook contacts”. In paying tribute to such a key figure in the development of drum and bass, Deijkers immortalises Kaye’s influence, his memory living on in the voids between the music.
Favourite Tracks: Manchester, Mind Rain, Voids Two
Words by Tom Graham
Originally published on the Cherwell website and available online here