“If you always do just the same thing, what more are you then a consumer product?”

Interview with Martijn Comes by Tobias Fischer for BEAT MAGAZINE (DE).

With Infinite Spaces & Beyond, Martijn Comes has recorded a remarkable electronica album: refreshingly ambitious, just as complex as it is engaging. Undertaking studies in music composition and research in Amsterdam plays a large role as well as the confidence to really do what you want.

BeatHow do you typically create your work?

Martijn Comes. When a project has a certain level of urgency which was definitely in the case of “Infinite Spaces and Beyond”, then the initial phase is always a little manic. Rational arguments do not play a role anymore. I turn endless buttons and click with the mouse around on my machine until I discover something interesting. This goes on for days. What I have learned from this is that in the initial stage you should just keep on creating one idea after another, making sketches. Although sixty percent of them ultimately end up in the trash, each one has its merits in technical or compositional ways. Sometime there is a seed; it grows and you cling on to reap the ideas and suddenly there is a concept. On other days you have the necessary motivation and a great idea and it results in nothing. That’s just how it goes.

What is your current studio set-up?

I work with a MacBook Pro with Ableton and plug-ins. In addition, I have a Roland Juno-60 and a MIDI keyboard. You might find this funny, but as studio monitors I use the KEF 104AB. Their technique was developed in the 1970s for the BBC. The atmosphere, the honesty and personality of the monitors are very important for me. One of the main creative points for me is toe able to work anywhere. It’s important to get into the spirit and style of creativity every day. That’s why I use a laptop as the basis for my tracks and to construct the foundation for the music and sound design. Because I am slowly but surely incorporating more acoustic elements into my work, I sometimes have to outline the track on paper, so that the musicians have a score for recording certain passages.

Infinite Spaces and Beyond sounds incredibly futuristic. What is the role of technology in your music?

Ableton for me is still a great, versatile platform to work efficiently and intuitively while allowing for experiments. As a computer user I’m not especially progressive. I do not use MAX/MSP for example, and I also think it’s not that important that my compositions aren’t the most experimental, innovative or demanding. I prefer simplicity. Maybe I am also a little stubborn, just like my father. If there is a better idea that results from the combination of various hardware and software applications, then that’s great. At the same time you have to trust occasionally the logic or sub-logic of the machine, as well as the other way around, by destroying what you have, when it is required. For me, the products from the Innear Display series are really very innovative and smart. And I’m still a big fan of Smart Electronix VST stuff.

What exactly does it mean for you to do music “research”?

To me studying music comes with research around concepts and collaborations. When I analyze ideas in more detail, it gives me the confidence to do what I want. And every time I rediscover anew what it means to do what you want. I ask questions such as: why should not be possible to combine concepts from dub and techno with contemporary classical music, microsound, acousmatic composition or field recordings? Or: would it would not be exciting if I could explore, within a particular musical landscape or lineage, all that has been lost to its history? From such questions, there could potentially arise something big. Of course, I am still far from that as my techniques are usually quite simple. But it’s about the process. It is a good thing to be in a state of personal and perpetual curiosity around sound. If you always do just the same thing, what more are you then a consumer product?


On “Infinite Spaces and Beyond”:
“This is easily the strongest electronica release I’ve heard in a very, very long time. Fresh, innovative and mindbogglingly ambitious.”
— Tobias Fischer, Beat Magazine & (DE)

“A good experimental and contemporary mix of ‘abrasive’ noise with underlying synths, choral style pad work, glitched/timestretched beats and percussive elements. Great & deep production. I imagine it sitting well alongside music from Cristian Vogel & Jon Hopkins, with the more experimental side of Oneohtrix Point Never.”
— Chris Weeks, alias Kingbastard | Myheadisaballoon, of Nibbana / Tigerbeat6, Herb Recordings, & Odd John Records (UK)

“Martijn Comes is a Haarlem based musician who with Infine Spaces and Beyond presents his first proper CD release after numerous download only releases.
Comes’ music is diverse and goes from ambient soundscapes to technoid dance music to classical compositions. On this album he seems to search for a mixture of all of these delivering a rather special sound which finds its way between cosmic space sounds and abstract rhythms.”
— Sietse van Erve, Moving Furniture Records (Netherlands)

“Love the intricacy and the textures of the ambience, really evokes a vast vista of heavenly bodies.”
— DJ RichNines (CA)

“With Infinite Spaces and Beyond from Martijn Comes, IO Sound continues its string of stellar, ground breaking releases. Anyone looking to bring some new vibrancy into their listening oughta check this release and the label out.”
— Andrew Duke, Cognition Audioworks (CA)

“A new dawn for dystopian music.”
— Giuseppe Angelucci, Spiritual Archives (NL)

• #36 WCBN Top 50, February 17 2014
• Parachute #71, Radio Pais 89.8FM Paris, 03 March 2014
• WXYC Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 11 April 2014
• tokafi playlist #1
• Andrew Duke In The Mix #2805

Welcome to the wondrous world of Mr. Comes, where matter is irrelevant and the electrostatic propulsions of the solar winds are king. The album is a perfectly tied composite of hissing noises from outer space made feasible to mankind, thanks to modern technology and musical foundations such as techno, dub and bass. All five entries on the album possess almost unparalleled depths and extraordinary arrangement skill on a level, which is rarely heard these days. The tear shedding bittersweet beauty of “Mirror Field” takes off with swishing snares, rolling stabs and soaring pads, then dissociating from electro into a bro- ken techno affair and back again. That’s the way to do it and this could actually become the album of the year. (Klaus Boss)

CARNAGE NEWS (IT) Translated from the Italian.
Who is Martijn Comes? A sound designer, or better, a composer, or better yet, an electronic musician of new media. A definition that sounds strange, but if related to the first two, we can find fertility in this vagueness. We might also add that Comes studied film music composition at the Conservatory of Amsterdam, we could also say that he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Utrecht, or who has a Master’s degree in philosophy at the University of Bournemouth. In short, a decent resume that makes it difficult for the labeling of Comes.

His work Infinite Spaces And Beyond embodies these doubts about the possible delineation of genre. This is a highly conceptual disc, a kind of exploration of more territories (in fact, infinite space and beyond) that are structured quickly, that change, that transform continuously in a dialectic of genres that defines occult zones of psychogeography.

Opening the disc is Memory Field, an emergence that is an expansionary path to the total cancellation of the field boundary (note that each track refers to a field, a field, a clearing, a fertile soil). The same thing happens with Electric Field, a rhythmic pounding reminiscent of pure Mark Fell, with changes of emphasis and stop-and-go driving dynamics. Silent Field , which has nothing to do with the silence, dazzles at the bottom frequencies with low and powerful gestures — an arrogance that is still whispered — that mark the development of the walls of sound on the horizon. Mirrored Field is a rebound, tossing and turning non-stop due to sound baffles that fit together and mingle with the light, the light that will find its highest definition of the field in the last step, Ultrasonic Field — where the limits of hearing are overcome by the strength of the spread of persuasive pink noise, benevolent and enveloping.

This disc is a wonderful test — and failure — to delimit fields, atmospheres, and environments created from nothing, blooming like flowers in the mountains, like the snowdrop that make its way into the indefinite accumulation of sounds to finally show its shape, delicate but definitely present. The flat land that has sown Comes has proven to be highly fertile, making visible the emergence of new forms of life, even beyond the limits of their inherent properties, and beyond the natural limitations of uncultivated land or those uncultivable. (Riccardo Gorone)

RAVAGE WEBZINE (NL) Translated from the Dutch.
The IO Sounds label from Canada continues to surprise me with beautiful albums. The latest release is by Martijn Comes and called Infinite Spaces and Beyond. The Dutch composer is dedicated to combining electronic music, new media and sound design. Comes works for the radio station Concertzender and hosts two programs. He is also responsible for several recordings of classical music, such as at the Gaudeamus Festival and Utrecht Early Music Festival. Since 2008 he has released several albums.

Infinite Spaces surprised me insofar as it is personally satisfying to the ear. Initially, the digital download gave a pleasant listening experience on my iPod, but the CD makes the music even deeper and more layered. The album begins with a recognizable palette of ambient house melodies, with no beat forthcoming. Which kind of musical form one is to assume is not yet clear. Perhaps Comes is suggesting an unknown world with this opening, one which he wants us to enter.

The CD has five tracks, the first of which is called “Memory Field”. The second, “Electric Field”, begins in space, creating an open atmosphere. It develops gradually to a reggae beat, which is then released to transform into other rhythms and “minimalist moments”, alternating with sculpted choral parts. With “Electric Field”, Comes masterfully connects different worlds into a balanced composition.

The third song, “Silent Field”, is an experiment in which sounds and rhythms evoke atmospheres, evolving from happy to melancholic, before turning to a penetrating and drony noise that becomes a beautiful set-piece with digital percussion djembes. “Mirrored Field” has a different approach, and drinks from the kegs of various genres; it reminds me of “Selected Ambient Works” by Aphex Twin. Comes’ simple melodies are easy on the ears and reflect the early days of ambient house music.

The last track, “Ultrasonic Field”, is an epic composition that tells the story of an eternal love / hate relationship between man and the sea. Where the story is exactly set is not entirely clear — perhaps on a sinking cruise ship where people are talking about how to prevent such a disaster. The song is perhaps best described as a play in which associations are evoked by the sounds of the creaking ship and the murmuring sea, accompanied by choirs and processed voices.

Martijn Comes tells stories with his music, and he knows how to cultivate his broad musical palette and creative beats into worlds. He knows how to connect different genres together and bring them into his world. This album is highly recommended for people who are looking for adventurous music. (Jan Kees Helms)

ONDAROCK (IT) Translated from the Italian.
Competent and erudite sound artist Martijn Comes, Dutch but now Berlin-based, debuted and trained himself with the EPs Dominion (2008), Lostitude (2008), and Den Haag (2010), all produced for the Panospria crew and netlabel. These releases lead to his first full-length, Those Who Not Speak (2012), in which he reworked a number of pieces from the classic tradition in an ambient-electrostatic manner — a release reminiscent of Brian Eno’s rework of Pachelbel’s “Canon” on the second half of Discreet Music.

Comes is overall interested in a form of music both interactive and eternal, as proved by the long, exhaustive, insistent mixes on Infinite Spaces and Beyond, that also boast a burning, hyperkinetic prelude (“Memory Field”). The afro-industrial-cosmic dance of “Electric Field” (11 minutes) is continuously stopped and suspended in the great void, alternating with pure silence and evoking a distant prayer. Even more equatorial-sounding and franticly percussive is “Silent Field” (12 minutes), eerie and agonizing in its cacophony, until transcendental bursts and Oms restart the concerto of droning tablas with renewed fire.

The sidereal silences of the previous pieces become a real deity in the 14-minute “Ultrasonic Field,” with layers upon layers of ancestral voices and millenarian sea-storms generating a slow and majestic beat, wildly syncopated, while cut-up vocals resonate like a pure syllabic homily in search of a primordial language.

Striking a strong balance between de-phasing and overlapping, between Tangerine Dream and The Orb, Comes’ deploys unusual techniques and known media to achieve ascension and flesh, energy and dissipation. Comes’ affaire is not so much a celebration of the total trip of the rave party-era (albeit one of the most “total” of the last few years), but more a dancing trip towards the collapse of the universe. (Michele Saran)

NONPOP (DE) Excerpt translated from the German.
A native of the Netherlands, MARTIJN COMES creates his music by combining popular and contemporary classical elements. He designed the album using various compositional techniques — some orchestral, some dubby — while utilising the serial style of Steve Reich mixed with the ambiance of BRIAN ENO. The latest product of his labor is Infinite Spaces And Beyond…. (Andrew Korsch)

A complete surprise enters digitally into my earphones by IO Sound from Canada. Their latest release by Martijn Comes is an ear-pleasing album which takes you to several electronic worlds. Martijn Comes is a Dutch musician who is specialized in new media, sound design and electro-acoustic composition. He has released since 2008 some albums and he curates two radio programs at De Concertzender. The album starts like a well-known house-pattern that has a spacy start of a upcoming dance-event, but unfortunately the beat won’t start. “The Electric Field” starts also spacy, but has a more open atmosphere and develops into a reggae-beat with lot’s of space around which flows into other beats, minimalism, maximalism and electronic choirs. It is a pleasure to hear how Comes combines all these different elements into a balanced composition. “Silent Field” is not silent at all. It is an experiment of the developing of sound and atmosphere, which flows from happy moments to melancholic to a penetrating noisy drone which opens when the percussion enters. “Mirrored Field” has a completely other atmosphere. It reminds me to some Aphex Twin tracks from the album “Selected Ambient Works.” The melodies are unpretentiously with clear beats and suits well into the beginning of the house. The last track “Ultrasonic Field” has strong relations with happenings at the sea and is a beautiful combination of singing, babbles, sea-sounds, uptempo breaking beats and cracking sounds that you will hear when a submarine will burst. The sounds of the choirs are beautiful, but that is not strange, because he records also choirs for radio broadcasting. Anyhow… Martijn Comes tells stories in his compositions without any words, only with his wide spectrum of sounds and beats. The stories are complex but also easy to read aka listen, because he uses lots of elements of several musical traditions and brings them together in his own musical world. This album is highly recommended for people who are looking for adventurous music. (Jan Kees Helms)