Bert Scholten - Dat Speelt Hier Niet - ElMuelle1931

Bert Scholten - Dat Speelt Hier Niet

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Het Generiek / Netherlands / 2023

I made this record while tracing back the customs around the speculaas- or koekplank. These wooden boards with woodcuts are used to press dough into to create a human or animal shape, which is then knocked out of its mold and baked. This huge biscuit was used for Dutch social rituals.
A biscuit in the shape of a man (‘koekvrijer’) was given as a public proposal, while an animal-shaped biscuit was gifted to a friend containing ambiguous hidden meanings. The latter often a critique towards the receiver on a very personal, non- political level. These gestures somehow lay bare social structures; of our families, friends, and of a space where language is obsolete.
But, just as the recipes for the dough, the customs have changed over time. As many of the meanings have faded, I wanted to create new ones. I wrote many songs over the last few years, which I sang for people, exhibited, made into videos, and recordings. As ways to find new spaces, shapes, and participants for these traditions. Is it possible to (re-)shape folklore? This is my first attempt. ––Bert

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On his new album ‘Dat speelt hier niet’, musician/performance artist/radiomaker Bert Scholten exposes the things at work behind the customs surrounding the Dutch koekplank. These traditional woodcut boards were used to shape biscuits. The huge biscuits, shaped like a person or an animal, were given as a proposal or mockingly to friends or family.

Scholten has been singing about local Dutch subjects for years. Since 2019 he has been exploring new forms for the boards in performances, videos and music. Now, there is the album. It will be released on Friday 10 November on Het Generiek, the record label he runs together with Michiel Klein of Lewsberg.

The organic song structures with creamy synths and buttery drums lend space to Scholten’s voice. The lyrics take different forms: from vicious to sweet, from praise to glorification, from disgust and ridicule to intimate affection.

You can hear the influence of Willem de Ridder, Svitlana Nianio and the lyrics of Robert Wyatt and Alfie Benge. The rough wave of Fad Gadget or Ike Yard also feels related. The array of synthesizers was recorded at the Klangendum Studio at WORM in Rotterdam.

With ‘Dat speelt hier niet’ Scholten intended to make an album in which imagination plays a major role. He says: “From the first loaves of sacrificial bread up until now, much meaning and readability has been lost. Tradition is changeable. New, colonial ingredients made the cake more lumpy and transformed it beyond recognition. Due to church censorship, many images had to go underground. As a result, a lot of pagan, sometimes very bawdy symbolism survived in the children’s world. I’ve often wondered how readable that symbolism is today. In the last hundred years, machines have made even more details disappear. I see the gap that exists there as my field of work with these songs.”

As additional influences he lists: “The ideas on the economy of abundance of Georges Bataille; the close-up subjects of Dutch writers J.J. Voskuil and H.H. ter Balkt; and how close laughter and tears are together in the work of local street-singer Jan de Roos and the work of Abner Jay.”

The music is often minimal, but never dry. Sometimes you hear slow gabber kicks, sometimes a banger that seems to want to be a levenslied. Sometimes melancholic keys, which fall apart right after they turn out to be catchy. Scholten suddenly takes an exit or a U-turn, or considers another connection more important. Along the way, by accident or on purpose, he always seizes a piece of the ravages of time.

His motivations: “What lies behind our customs? They reveal how we interact with each other and with which values we grow up.”