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The Julie Mittens

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Album Review

With an endearing name like the Julie Mittens, one would expect this Dutch trio to be one of those impossibly cute twee pop bands who play 90-second pop-punk tunes about lollipops and kittens. There are probably forms of music that have less in common with that style than The Julie Mittens, but it's hard to imagine what they are. Primarily inspired by the free improvisation scene of the '60s (the members name John Coltrane's legendary The Olatunji Concert: The Last Live Recording as their direct inspiration), the Julie Mittens are fundamentally a rock power trio with little to no interest in playing rock music. The four tracks are live-in-the-studio improvisations named after the date they were recorded (tracks one and three are both called "December 12, 2006") and ranging in length from nine-and-a-half to just over 22 minutes. Guitarist Aart-Jan Schakenbos favors extended drones, often exploring all the harmonic possibilities of a single note for several minutes at a time. Bassist Michael Van Dam and drummer Leo Fabriek disdain the traditional rhythm section role; even on the almost rockist "April 3, 2007," the shortest and most traditionally structured track here, Fabriek favors machine-gun drum rolls and pealing cymbal crashes over a standard groove, although Van Dam's hypnotic repeated bass pattern does provide a solid foundation for Fabriek and Schakenbos to wig out over. Crucially, however, that track is about as close as The Julie Mittens ever gets to the pure unstructured noise that many assume free improvisationm by definition, must be. The other three pieces are exercises in tension and release, with all three players exhibiting admirable control and collective skill. Not nearly as chaotic as many examples of the style, The Julie Mittens is a solid stepping stone into the world of free improv for fans of instrumental post-rock bands like Mono or Godspeed You Black Emperor!.

Customer Reviews

Rough going but worth persisting

This is definitely rough going I think, particularly in the beginning, but it pays to persist. The four pieces have dates as titles - anything else would probably prettify things too much. I've rarely heard music, though, that is as raw and authentic as this.

Biography

Formed: 2002 in The Netherlands

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s

The Julie Mittens are a brainy, hermetic experimental/post-rock trio comprised of Aart-Jan Schakenbos, Michel van Dam, and Leo Fabriek. Often operating without a label, the trio built a devoted, nigh-on cultish fan base on the strength of a handful of simply titled, track list-free self-released CD-Rs, including The Red Album (2003) and Recorded June 20, 2005. The Julie Mittens released their...
Full Bio

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