Cloudfish: But Is It Art?

Influenced by ECM and Nils Petter Molvaer, the Dutch duo blend crunchy violin and grandma’s gobbling noise at the dinner table


Cloudfish takes pleasure in creating ugly beauty. Its debut album But Is It Art? features such oddities as Kraaak, which mixes crunchy violin and grandma’s gobbling noise at the dinner table. In this respect, violinist Jasper le Clercq and vocalist Hartog Eysman, who declare the influence of among others Nils Petter Molvaer and the experimental music of the ECM label, are heir as well to such Dutch improv staples as Han Bennink and Mary Oliver. Bold and sardonic, Cloudfish juxtaposes munching senior citizens with the charming drone and intoxicating girl’s voice of Na Queweh.

Making puzzling and rather undefinable music from “random expressions from the lost and found” – a line from the album’s multi-dimensional title tune – could suffice as the motto of Cloudfish. Although 58 minutes is too much of a good thing for this sort of under-harmonised niche undertaking, the carefully constructed moods by Le Clercq, who alternates between plucked and percussive violin, melodramatic wake-up calls and alienating wah-wah effects, merit attention. Repeated melodic motifs underscore Eysman’s Footprints, a seemingly endearing family story with a dark and foreboding tinge.

The voice of Eysman, best-known as an indie singer-songwriter, is clear and flexible and its timbre is soft-hued. Less authoritative, Eysman’s hushed spoken words border on cheap sensationalism. But to be sure, his words are adequately tuneful, developed into cohesive lines that are woven smoothly into the duo’s austere frameworks. Exit Stage Left is a prime example, finding Eysman wondering “how come and where is the why and you a child of your time to be sure of nothing at all, cushion the fall from grace”.

But is it poetry? The answer from the enigmatic Cloudfish may take a long time coming.

Berlin; A Light Inside: Patience Is A Liar; Na Queweh; But Is It Art?; Forgive; Kraaak; Ever Aspiring; Contact; I Am Not; Liar; Mijmer; Exit Stage Left; Footprints (57.15)
Jasper le Clercq (vn, effects); Hartog Eysman (v); Oosterbeek, The Netherlands, November 2020.
Trytone 559-085