"The Eskdalemuir Harmonium," above all else, is a tribute to a lone instrument, the harmonium that occupies the album's title. The one name who most will be familiar with on this record is Machinefabriek, but the approach of Chris Dooks, a TV documentary director, shapes the LP even more as the music of "The Eskdalemuir Harmonium" is augmented by a five minute radio excerpt that, among other things, includes a woman's recollection of her father's harmoniums. The addition of this piece to the record makes it clear the duo want to use more than music to examine the harmonium's role, but I would be remiss not to mention the beautiful and fractured landscapes that Dooks and Machinefabriek create with little more than a harmonium and a set of field recordings. The two longest pieces presented, "The Pike Knowes the Loupin' Stanes" and "Ewe Knowe the Girdle Stanes," build spacious layers of humming and resonant notes while implied rhythms and jump cuts lend an unpredictable compositional tool to the surroundings. An invigorating and wonderful album. – Ryan Potts, Experimedia
The Eskdalemuir Harmonium is a full-length site-specific collaboration between Chris Dooks and Rutger Zuydervelt who is best known by his Machinefabriek moniker. The project is orientated around a landscape home to a vast Tibetan Buddhist temple and megalithic stone circles. The resulting album and supplementary digital package are a fusion of ‘folktronica-concrète' homages to a dying American harmonium -currently disintegrating in a farmhouse near Lockerbie, Scotland.
The album, made over a twelve month period, includes a five minute radio documentary. In addition, Dooks' essay and photographs of the year-long process have been stitched into a full colour montage designed by Zuydervelt - who also works as a respected graphic designer. The record itself is lovingly pressed on bright red vinyl.
Much as one visits a sick relative in a care home, The Eskdalemuir Harmonium is a form of ‘sonic palliative care'. It spills into the glitch territory of Stefan Betke's work as Pole, while at the same time it follows a sonic ethnographic tradition akin to ‘The Radio-Ballad' (formed by Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger). It was constructed via a delicate bricolage process where spoken word, field recordings and music form more than the sum of their parts.
When Dooks composed and began to arrange the pieces on the record, which also forms part of his work at The University of The West of Scotland, he was aware of the dangers of being too close to a project, and needing a sense of social communion on the project, he contacted Rutger who agreed to co-produce the record with Dooks, giving the project a capricious and variable flavour.