What is Draaihoek?
You know that feeling of being in a place and feeling at ease? Where you can declutter your mind, slow down and process some of the emotional baggage that you brought along. The Album Draaihoek is exactly that feeling for me. It encapsulates how I feel when I break out of the city and escape the rat race. The tranquility of the ocean or that of nature in general helps me to ground myself again. Specifically this album is about a lodge along the West Coast of South Africa called Draaihoek Lodge. Here I got the inspiration to start writing the first pieces and at the time I was accompanied by my mother and my sister, who made the trip so much more special. Travelling is always more enjoyable to me when in company.
Although Draaihoek was initially intended to be a business venture of my past freelance self; a project that I would on completion sell to the lodge we were staying at but as I started writing the first songs I realised that this album was something that I wanted to work on for myself.
In the next couple of paragraphs I will talk a bit about the tracks, their background and what they mean to me. Draaihoek is a bit of a musical cocktail - the tracks were not intended to be a part of a unified whole as they have some stylistic differences but as a composition they seemed to still fit together and tell the story that I wanted to tell.
1. Feeling Sand
This was the very first piece that I wrote and I wanted to use it to set the tone for the entire album. I remember picking up my guitar, walking into my makeshift recording booth (a corner of our living room draped in tent fabric, rock wool and cloth) hitting record and just playing the guitar. I wanted it to sound raw, organic, imperfect. My acoustic steel string guitar had recently been restrung and I had left the overhanging pieces of string on and they rattled with every stroke - something that would drive recording engineers insane but I wanted the listener to hear every aspect of the guitar. The fret squeaks that you hear in the first couple of songs weren't intentional and I had to remove some sharp frequencies because they were subtracting from the immersion. The name Feeling Sand refers to the moment that you walk onto a familiar beach and feel the sand underneath your feet - you breathe in the fresh air and take in the moment.
2. Clear your mind
This song was a little bit different from the first in that I use orchestral elements and a very strong rhythmic pulse that I see as being the busyness of the mind. Often we bring our racing mind and cannot stop it from taking over, we just need to learn to turn down the tempo and break out of the rhythm that we live at in the city.
3. Leaving the City
I always feel a big change when I leave the borders of the city - a rush of excitement because you are leaving familiar territory, cozy comfort zone or what ever you might call it. This is maybe not true for everyone as city life can also be a struggle for many people. For me at least it is something I associate with positive feelings - I like seeing new places and expanding my horizons. Maybe throw in some road-trip vibes and some good weather to paint the scenery.
4. Drop of Nostalgia
Drop of Nostalgia was another break from the style I layed out in the first piece. I used an ambient sound of rainfall and wanted it to become the feature of the piece. Usually rain sounds are associated with a feeling of coziness and it can have a very meditative effect but I wanted it to really drive the music which is why I chose to emphasize it like that. The melody that I came up with brought up feelings of nostalgia, I couldn't quite pin what it was reminding me of but I am glad it was more of an abstract feeling.
5. Wide Horizons
This piece was performed by a sweet girl who's name I have unfortunately lost from memory and whom I have no contact with anymore. This is a huge shame and possibly even a crime because I feel like I owe her the credit. I met her through my church in Cape Town and I noticed how gifted she was at singing, she showed such passion for her talent and I had the honour of collaborating with her on this one. If the day comes and she reads this then I hope she will reach out and let me credit her properly.
6. Slowing Down
The bazantar is a beautiful instrument and is the main feature of this piece. Slowly evolving and not rushing to go anywhere, simply stopping for a moment and taking a deep breath - we don't take enough time to unwind and calm down.
7. Resonant Winds (Volantia OST)
This piece is one of four songs from a game called Volantia, a game I worked on in 2018. Volantia is a zen tile-based city builder set in the clouds developed by Tangled Mess Games. I was really thrilled to be a part of this project and felt at home creating this meditative puzzle game. When I was brainstorming ideas for the game I composed a couple of musical sketches that I stitched together by adding some wind underneath. This piece is in essence this "mood board" of Volantia's first musical ideas.
8. Troubled (Volantia OST)
At first glance a slightly negative title for an album that is about being on the beach and getting away from the noise? This is another piece that was originally a mood board for Volantia - a lot more ambient and a lot darker in tone than Resonant Winds, this track personifies the baggage that we bring along to our getaway destination. Everyone has their gnawing set of worries and fears that troubles them and often wish to just switch it off but the truth is that no matter where we go, we will always be followed by our shadow.
9. Progression (Volantia OST)
This piece is the third mood board and you might be wondering why I chose to use this "brainstorming" material - isn't that recycling music? Yes it is! But the fact is that the music that ended up being used in Volantia was a collection of very short musical sections that alternate at random intervals and were too short for me to showcase them in this album.
10. A day in the fields
This song has a very different background to most pieces here as it was composed as a pitch for a game. I was attending Unite 2016 in Amsterdam and was sitting in a talk about the art of a game called "Days of the porcupine" by Theresa Latzko. The talk was funny and inspiring and I approached Theresa shortly after her talk to ask her about her plans with the game. I was very nervous at the time and it cost me a huge deal of courage to even talk to her but eventually I got her contact details and told her that I was keen to produce something for her when I got back from the trip.
I was so excited about the game and the collaboration and I wrote this piece that was very inspired by Ori and the blind Forest. I sent her the result and waited for a reply but I didn't get a message back so the piece went into my archive. I hope that she might find this piece one day and appreciate the gesture but I am also happy that it fits into the album.
11. A kingdom in the sky (Volantia OST/Main Theme)
Kingdom in the sky was the initial name given to Volantia in its early stages when Marc, Robbie and Dorian went to Stugan to work on the prototype of the game.
The instrumentation is also very different compared to the raw and organic guitar improvisation in Feeling sand but the piano is an instrument I love playing just as much - I really had a lot of fun finding the right tones for this main theme!
Another big jump from South Africa to Berlin, where I helped my mother out on her Finnisage of Alice in Wonderland. She wanted the ending night of her exhibition to be musical and I thought it would be great to compose a piece just for the occasion. I had my portable recorder with me on the weekend prior and I sat down at the piano in my mom's flat and pressed record. About 30 minutes later I had a very long take of improvised piano and I was happy with some of the ideas that came up during that session. Later that week I stitched these takes together and added some orchestral embellishments and nature sounds to fill out the gaps.
13. Remembering Sand
When I wrote this song I wrote it for a special person in my life and I used a voice message that she sent as the second voice for the piece - something similar to an artist called "One Hello World" As our relationship ended I unfortunately could not use her voice message, which was anyway too personal to make public and I decided to substitute it with some deep breathing. The breaths were intended to almost be a guided mini meditation - forcing you to slow down and be more mindful of the present. Being the end of the album the title Remembering Sand is meant to create an arch to the first song Feeling Sand, making you think back to the moments you spent in your sanctuary and taking those memories with you back into everyday life.
As you can tell the album is full of different stories and it took me over 2 years to compile this music so I hope that you can share this journey with me and dive into the music of Draaihoek!
Thanks for reading :)
here is a link to the bandcamp page where you can listen to it: