ROBERT VAN HEUMEN – Songs Of Love (And Decay)


Perhaps it is obvious to say this as one gets old too soon and smart too late, but love and decay are ineluctably connected over the course of a minimally “normal” life. We don’t need to list examples here. Physical, psychological, economical decline are all byproducts of phases during which the theoretical stability and the personal “maturation” deriving from love is desperately missed, beyond any optimistic belief. Someone is content with wiping the dust under the carpet, shifting from the condition of a painfully deluded, mentally traumatized individual to the role of a sentiment-deprived preacher of nothingness. We understand these unfortunate people. Truth hurts; erasing it through a pretended inability to feel becomes a must.

On the other hand, a rational and ingenious person – a category to which Robert Van Heumen definitely belongs – finds methods to examine the aforementioned truth in the only feasible way: unusual juxtaposition of sounds and, in this particular occasion, words. Defensive frigidity and arcane tales hiding a dirtier reality are not serviceable in an intelligent song cycle; hard-hitting intuitions and sympathetic co-researchers are. A quick glance at the Dutch composer’s curriculum vitae gives an important clue: direct experience is crucial in his oeuvre, either via real-time sampling in a performance or within studies destined to uncomfortable electroacoustic statements (such as his complex CD Stranger, released in 2009 by Creative Sources).

This collection is also likely to puzzle listeners lacking a proper focus. These are indeed “songs”, both in principle and actual shape, in spite of their often challenging rhythmic characterization and total absence of fluff (check “Coma”, possibly the album’s best track). Van Heumen made the most of his technical skillfulness to ensure that nothing sound predictable or stale, and he succeeded. The choice of vocalist Evelien Van Den Broek – a clear soprano timbre without excesses of inflection and coloring – appears perfect for the scope. The lyrics are rendered with a cross of detached sadness and genuine anger. They talk of hope and disillusion; of processes of growth that had been imagined in a thoroughly different light. The whole is a memento of how a human being remains alone from beginning to end, notwithstanding false smiles and opportunistic confidences. Not many realize that it is much better so.

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