dank aan Popunie voor de financiele bedrage aan
the Last Waltz tour!!
photo by Andre van Noord
Approached in a conventional, "linear" manner, the history of Space Siren looks pretty easy to summarise. A handful of singles, an EP, a split single with Eindhoven's the Sugarettes, and two long players cover the recorded output. You can find the discography elsewhere on this site. [scroll down] It's also worth pointing out that they gigged a lot in the short time given to them, albeit when circumstances allowed. Memorable concerts (for this writer at least) include their brilliant, fiery cameos on The Ex festival tour in 2014, an early, determined show in O Ceallaigh's pub on the Subroutine Cares showcase, a rabble-rousing statement of intent at Le Mini Who festival late in 2012, where Corno kicked off about the way Dutch underground bands were treated in their own land, and a funny day gig at Roodkapje's new HQ in Rotterdam North sometime in 2013. All great. You'll have to take my word for it. I can't comment on their UK tours (something the band loved to do, if only to slake Corno's enthusiasm for bitter and the ever-changing British landscape) but I know many Brits who loved those shows and appreciated what a powerful beast Space Siren was as a live act.
We could flesh this summary out a bit by mentioning the perceptions of other writers, or the media, about Space Siren. Space Siren were seen as something out of the ordinary right from the word go, for better and for the worse. We can point to Cocteau Twins bassist Simon Raymonde's love of the Lullaby (Get Ready) /Verschwende Deine Jugend single. The band attracted great and intelligent writers like Peter Bruyn and Theo Ploeg, who saw that Space Siren existed for the "right reasons", and mirrored that in their reports. Space Siren's waspish independence meant that many in more mainstream media channels approached them with caution. Were they too independent to write about, or to champion beyond a vague thumbs up? It's a sad reflection of our times that we feel the need to appease hunches based round spread sheets, rather than say what we really think. Space Siren were too good for these timid times.
So there we are; all well and good and noted. And still, it's just a perfunctory salute. It's not the story that Space Siren deserve, frankly. Space Siren are difficult to write about because it was, and it still is, difficult to fully capture what they represented. Especially within the "landscape" of Dutch guitar rock. I will excuse you if you laugh at what's coming next, but I think Dutch rock bands have a tough time being bands. The difficulty has a number of sources, but it hinges mostly round confidence and work ethic; the fact you don't need to struggle or examine your motives (on a basic, "newborn" level) in this intriguing, frustrating country. The perils of finding it too easy, coupled with the perils of dancing to the Dutch music media are a killer combination too. Space Siren were one of a handful who managed to circumnavigate the spoilt/existentialist nonsense that chews up so much nascent talent in the Netherlands. They slipped past both the visible and unseen creative and social hurdles in their path, like a hare leaping a dijk.
So what to say? Well; let's say Space Siren were an atmospheric band. Theirs was a presence that was seen and not seen; a chimera in band form; each one of the members personifying a different elemental quality. And as a band collectively - and successfully - revealing the power of their music only when the time was right. This for me is the core essence; the sense of balance AND tension created by four very different personalities in their attempt to capture the unseen. At one cussedly individual and enormously companionable, they were damned mysterious but displayed an honesty and openness in their work that, quite frankly, freaked some people out. Their LPs were Odyssean journeys on a micro and macro level; essays in self-discovery so overloaded with a sense of drama that they made your head spin. Alongside The Ex and Rats on Rafts, there is no other Dutch guitar band able to balance "difficult", "uncommercial", and aggressive passages of sound in a manner that is so incredibly attractive, elevatory, exciting.
We should mention Next to Jaap studios in Voorhout; a place that acts as a useful guide to Space Siren, but a place that invites further confusion in the telling. The Bollenstreek is a strange area; somehow maintaining a sense of the rural whilst being eaten up by the encroaching Randstad. A traditional place, yet a place that ruthlessly harnesses itself to any modernity or innovation that keeps the money coming in. Welcoming, but also ready to kick you out if you don't play ball. It seems strange that such a band could operate in - of all places - Voorhout but they did. Next to Jaap is a tactile place, and a place that invites hard work. But a place that has a womb-like atmosphere. And one that could easily display a social side. For all the sturm und drang, the band liked a pint. The days spent at Next to Jaap chewing the cud and gossiping over some lethal homebrew are of blessed memory. The studio was an extension of Corno Zwetsloot's personality, at once rugged and no-nonsense to the point of being slightly forbidding, but also fearsomely welcoming.
On reading this back, I realise that I haven't made much sense, or really told you what I want to say. Maybe that's for the best. Human nature can't be dumped on a spreadsheet and feelings have a nasty habit of leading you down unintended paths. But I hope I've given you some indication of how brilliant and blazing they really were.
Richard Foster, 26 July, 2015.
KZ013 / MR14 / SR063
Space Siren / WOLVON / Zea
Songs for a dead Pilot
EP (2 x 7")
Katzwijm Records/Makkum Records/Subroutine Records, 2015
De laatste twee nummers die Corno met Space Siren opnam, guller en genadelozer dan ooit. Samen in een pakketje met 2 covers van Space Siren uitgevoerd door WOLVON en Zea. "This music should be played loud!"
Deze EP werd gepresenteerd tijdens The Last Waltz tour, feb 2015.
KZ011 / SR059
If you scream like that, your monkey won't come
Katzwijm Records/Subroutine Records, 2014
"En dan ben je pas halverwege het album, terwijl de wereld al is vergaan....Was het woord 'geniaal' al gevallen?" (OOR)
KZ09 / SR034
Mr. Wagner, please give us a call.
Katzwijm Records/Subroutine Records, 2012
Space Siren has that forward drive every band
should have: the sound of needing to make music, not just wanting to
KZ08 / SR033
Space Siren / The Sugarettes
Katzwijm Records/Subroutine Records, 2011
"Twee van de leukste Nederlandse indie noise bandjes samen op een zwart schijfje uitgebracht door een van de beste labels van Nederland, Subroutine Records, in samenwerking met Katzwijm" (Tjeerd van Erve)
KZ07 / SR021
Katzwijm Records/Subroutine Records, 2010
“Joyfully dark and taste like tulips with Tabasco”. Absolutely. (Incendiary Magazine)