Many things about the 80’s underground, DIY electronic scene remain unknown, but Modal Analysis brings back the spirit and innovation which slithered then into the genre’s darkest and less approachable corners. Thanks to the personal commitment of the Athenian label’s manager, George Kondaktor, everyone can now have a better taste of the recordings and the sounds of that era through this first archival collection of Het Zweet‘s tape-recorded and unreleased material. The following content is an extraction from a search on what “survived” up on the net and the discussion with George, which is included in the final paragraph as the release’s story. Hopefully, the arrangement of the sections makes it easier to follow the project’s concept and makes you think why, despite its innovation, it remains under the radar.
Starting from the beginning, Het Zweet -or Sweat- was the name of the project Marien van Oers used to develop, contain, and share his sound. However, as it didn’t last long, whatever material you can find is from 1983 until around 1988. He also had his share of concerts in which he performed alongside others. As for the music itself, although it was under the shadow of industrial motifs as the ones made by Test Dept., one cannot overlook the expression of tribal and trance aspects. Something also remarkable is how Marien made those sounds, using some field recordings, as well. At first, it may seem that this is from a music group, but you should remember this was just a single-man force.
As per the introduction, he was a part of the 80’s DIY scene as he heavily invested in using different instruments made by himself. Whether that was a shopping cart, a trolley, metal junk, or cardboard, the sound didn’t detach itself from the physicality, groove, and materialist vibe. Combining this with his tribal inspirations, he intentionally generated a hypnotic rhythm through percussive and shouting vocal repetition. Considered more as a means of personal expression, while deeply immersed in his vision through a DIY approach, he stood far from any features that emerged from his country’s trends and waves. Since he started, all was about synthesis and the escape from conventionality.
The work and project
His general bio sounds highly intriguing. Something I also felt while gathering info. Despite that, his work sank into the black hole of the ’80s, along with much other music. For many, the reason this happened is easy to guess. The scene didn’t have this whole marketing and promotion campaign backing each individual or collective up. The mentality was quite different, too. Many of the musicians weren’t that interested in promoting after all. Sequentially, this is what also happened to his only self-titled LP. While destined to be an addition to Recloose Organisation’s catalogue, the break up of the like-minded, experimental group Bourbonese Qualk, who ran that label, led to some unexpected directions. Eventually, Dossier label released it in 1987. More parts of his work are available in cassettes, spread over various labels and compilations.
Marien’s collaboration with Bourbonese Qualk led to a mutual touring plan around Europe. For the label’s sake, both also worked together on audiovisual projects. An example is a frame from the noise track Repeat, which was the cover for Het Zweet’s LP. The image is a bit blurry and distorted, but from what I read in a statement from Recloose Organisation (and I mostly quote), it depicts Marien as he hits a metal boiler with a pickaxe. This still from a video loop was used in a projection during live performances. A part of this video is available in the videotape compilation below (you may want to lower the volume), including Marien in pair with other innovative, experimental, and industrial acts from the early to mid-’80s, such as Muslimgauze, The Klinik, and Club Moral.
Yet, in 2019, after a tribute paid to Marien in Massive Trance: Interpreted by Driftmachine concert, the concept of which takes its idea from a personal note in a cassette of his, the vision that directed him became clear. This tribute is in Ongehoord‘s catalogue and in the description we read, in his words: “The basic idea of the performance is experiencing a constant repetition of sound (=rhythm), which can result in the spectator taking action through movement or getting into a form of trance“. In conclusion, the above sentence provides a substantial view of his general focus on tribalistic hypnotism and the idea behind this project’s creation.
Overall, the release in Modal Analysis features sixteen compositions that vary in duration from seconds to double-digit minutes for the tenth year since Marien’s passing away. George invested a hundred hours digging into unheard material for this curation, which contains legendary-level, homemade, and improvised sounds with a pinch of modernity, made mainly by Korg MS-10 and his trusted tape recorder. In this convenient way, one can immerse in the complete sonic spectrum he generated in his years of activity. Whether it would be a heavy industrial piece, distortions, tribalistic repetitiveness, or dizzying ambiance, this compilation achieves to wholly capture his impactful sound diversity. Finally, in this memorial to Marien’s dedicated and innovative mind, there is a live document from 1984 in the producer’s hometown Breda, Holland.
The background story
I wouldn’t discover all the previous if it weren’t for the discussion with George. Having his personal taste aligned with Modal Analysis’ aesthetic, he fancied himself digging more into Het Zweet’s work. Something else that sparked his interest was that he, among other like-minded individuals and groups, had a significant presence on a sociopolitical level. First and foremost, however, this ecstatic, trance and very inherent material managed to blur the lines between conscious and unconscious. That deeply captivated George. While discovering his work, he felt that Marien’s message summarizes in: “Letting ourselves lose to the music, no matter how long it lasts, as a whole and simply without thinking about time“.
It all started when, for his birthday, George received Het Zweet’s LP on Dossier as a gift from a friend. Being a label owner, he thought it would be great if this could be available again. Due to some regulations, perhaps, this wasn’t possible. Instead, he decided to proceed with rare, unreleased material. As he said: “It would be a shame for such a treasure to rot“.
This effect and impact have made George hooked on Marien’s work for the past two years. Indeed, the combination of tribal, industrial, and experimental techniques is something as unique as it is absorbing. On top of that, no one can forget that the producer used homemade instruments. An act that itself solidifies the universality of the language of music. Although keeping his originality on so many levels, the punk/post-punk wave aesthetics are still there, as George noted. Extending that further, his shouting/screaming vocals most likely appealed to the 80’s audience, which consisted of anxious, curious, and furious youth. In general, punk mainly lies in DIY behaviour, and this distinguished Het Zweet from the rest.
Afterward, it was only natural for George to get in touch with those closest to Marien. The agreement was simple: To highlight his work. A year-long search bore fruit, and, amidst the pandemic, the latter’s brother-in-law agreed to provide a card box full of CDs and cassettes with unreleased recordings. Searching thoroughly through piles of physical formats and listening to numerous tracks, George came across a work that, in a way, resembled the Modal Analysis direction.
As I am curious to understand what is behind unreleased works publishing, this was a perfect opportunity to ask him what he believes. Specifically, the reason this could be important and what we could understand when we face something like this. The first thing that came to his mind was: “Because it reflects a scene from the 80s that is long forgotten. A scene with many unseen heroes and initiatives, like Het Zweet, that should appear again in 2023″. Generally, he believes that there’s always room for an evaluation between old and new music, which can probably open up new pathways. Most importantly, though, it was George’s aim to highlight this industrial/noise/avant-garde pioneer since he first got in touch with his work. Something that, in parallel, works as a tribute to his memory.
When I asked him whether it is that difficult to discover such a sound, having all those modern compositions flowing all over, he replied that, due to the current circumstances, there is a revival of music and sounds that emerged in the 80s. In his opinion, and I believe ours as well, a listener has to have a prior experience with harsher soundscapes. For those familiar and, why not, those curious enough, George suggested that the best way to experience Het Zweet is to empty and calm the mind. A practice that, in his opinion, is important in order to prepare ourselves for the “sweat” – the translation of the project’s name.
Then, unavoidably, I asked for his opinion about Marien’s instruments or gear. I added next whether the sound coming from this kind of hardware applies to George’s personal approach and, consequently, that of the label. These harsh and raw patterns are what makes the label, he replies. The way Het Zweet made his sound is specified previously, and George further commented that this also came from a lack of resources. Additionally, it applies beautifully to Modal Analysis. Very close to his philosophy, too, as his friend that gifted him the LP further suggested, in a way that aligns him and Marien in the love they share for African rhythms and “dirty” sounds. Naturally, the label has a foundation on experimentation and unconventionality, which is still kept pure for the past ten years.
To conclude, I wanted to know what the audience can learn from this archival collection. This is a trait that I thought George already has based on his enjoyment in this search and discovery process and the output after these two years of involvement. He, then, said: “The audience has to have patience and learn to listen to a release from the start till the end, no matter how long it is. As for the essence of Marien’s composition, that is something very personal. Each can immerse as much as one likes in an artist’s work. For me, what really matters and stands out in his work is that primordial, ritualistic feeling that lurks within”.