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Frans Zwartjes

Radically expanding their catalog of recordings exploring the incredible output of the revolutionary Dutch experimental filmmaker and composer, Frans Zwartjes, Purge.xxx returns with a truly revelatory self-titled double LP of previously unheard material by the artist. Comprising five works discovered in Zwartjes' studio in early 2023, the album collects efforts composed and recorded as synthesizer-based improvisations for films that remained unmade or unfinished between the 1960s and the early 1980s. Drenched in ambience and moody, slow-moving melodies, sometimes threaded by elements of field recordings, each encounters an artist often defined by his bristling density embracing an eerie sense of beauty and almost minimalist restraint. Issued in a handmade and numbered edition of 300 copies consisting of two 180gr LPs, in a silkscreened sleeve with an accompaning booklet, it's an incredible thing to behold.

Since its humble beginnings back in 2013, the UK based imprint, Purge, alongside its sub-imprint, Purge.xxx, has steadily mined murky territories of experimental sound practice, offering particular focus to the junctures of music, sound art, and film. Increasingly prolific, over the last few years they’ve brought us stunning obscurities from Carles Santos, Takashi Inagaki, John Smith, Bruce Gilbert, Trevor Mathison, Jocelyn Pook, Derek Jarman, and numerous others. Running like a vein through their entire output, has been an unparalleled dedication to the work of the Dutch experimental filmmaker and musician Frans Zwartjes (1927-2017), issuing five releases to date. Now they return with an absolutely stunning, self-titled double LP of previously unheard material from this revolutionary master, largely comprising synthesiser-based improvisations created for films that remained unmade or unfinished between the 1960s and the early 1980s. Issued in a beautiful 180gr vinyl edition of 300 copies, housed in a numbered and handmade screen-printed outer, with a booklet containing extended interview with Zwartjes’ primary collaborator and life partner Trix Zwartjes, and dozens of photographs from their family albums, it’s a truly remarkable object that radically expands our perceptions of the artist’s creative scope.

Regarded by Susan Sontag as "the most important experimental filmmaker of his time”, Frans Zwartjes covered a great deal of ground in the arts before he arrived at the medium for which he became most well known. Trained as classical violist, spending five years playing with the Netherlands Opera, before exploring the worlds of painting and sculpture, and then finally arriving at the medium of film. Between the late '60s and his death in 2017, Zwartjes created over 50 film works, the majority of which are black-and-white experimental works that utilized in-camera editing techniques and tended to forgo narrative structure, known for being highly stylized, poetic, and claustrophobic. Forgoing dialog in favor of close-ups, distorted angles, rhythmic editing, and hypnotic, minimal sound design, his collective body of work delves toward the themes of voyeurism, and sensual and domestic intimacy and tension. Zwartjes’ films were a form of total art. Not only did he produce, direct, and edit them himself, but he deployed his extensive knowledge and experience in music by composing and improvising their soundtracks as well.

As Purge’s previous five releases have effortlessly illuminated, Zwartjes’ former life working as a professional musician served him well. As remarkable as his film are, the sounds he composed and recorded for them easily stand on their own. This reckoning is pushed even further by their latest, the double self-titled LP of previously unreleased material drawn from his archives, given that these musical efforts have no explicit visual counterpoint.

Following Zwartjes’ passing in 2017, his studio has remained sealed and untouched. In early 2023, Purge was allowed unprecedented access to it and discovered a trunk of unlabeled 3/4-inch tapes, each containing completely unheard music by the artist. These works turned out to be largely synthesizer-based improvisations, created during the late 1960s, the 1970s - his most fertile filmmaking period - and the early 1980s, all for films that had remained unmade or unfinished. Carefully gathering five of the most striking of these efforts, unlike his previous releases, these recordings were then transferred directly from the original source tapes and newly mastered across four vinyl sides.

The five works that make up this album delves toward a largely unexplored area of Zwartjes’ musical endeavors. Almost entirely played and recorded on synthesizers by the artist, with occasional elements of field recording threaded in, each is a meandering excursion into moody ambience that flirts on the edges of new age, the Berlin School of electronic music, and some of the territories explored by John Carpenter, Tangerine Dream, and Bernard Parmegiani, in their soundtracks. Slow moving melodies and rippling, improvised passages intertwine and stretch out to construct an arching sense of brooding that's peppered with moments of light, imagery, and swirling abstractions, all of which remain incredibly listenable and inviting across their respective lengths. Where many of Zwartjes’ previous efforts are defined by their density, tension, and diversity of sound sources - electronic and acoustic alike - these five works are notable for paired back minimalism and restraint in both their instrumentation and structures, painting the image of a calmer and often more intuitive artist at work.

Remarkably beautiful and engrossing, Purge’s stunning self-titled double LP is an absolute revelation into the inner world of Frans Zwartjes, one of the most singular artists working in the 20th and 21st Centuries. Absolutely engrossing and mesmerizing, it pulls you in and keeps you there from the first sounding to the last.

Issued in a beautiful 180gr 2xLP 12” vinyl edition of 300 copies, housed in a numbered and handmade screen-printed outer sleeve, with a booklet containing extended interview with Zwartjes’ primary collaborator and life partner Trix Zwartjes, and dozens of photographs from their family albums, few objects at the juncture of experimental film and music can reach these heights.