• LTR043
    Joep Beving & Maarten Vos
    vision of contentment
LTR043_Joep Beving_DSP_3000x3000px

Pianist Joep Beving and cellist Maarten Vos have announced details of their first collaborative album, ‘vision of contentment’, which will be released on July 19, 2024. It follows work together on 2019’s ‘Henosis’, Beving’s third album, which came about after the two musicians shared a bill in Amsterdam in 2018. Mixed by Nils Frahm at LEITER studio in Berlin’s famed Funkhaus complex, where Vos also has his studio, the LP contains eight brand new compositions and will be available on vinyl as well as via all digital platforms.

While Beving’s never recorded an entire album with another artist before, Vos has regularly engaged in such activities, sharing credits with artists such as Julianna Barwick, Nicolas Godin (AIR) and Alex Smoke. “Occasionally I come across artists with whom I share a musical connection, leading to a mutual desire to collaborate,” Vos explains. “Exploring different creative approaches and learning from their workflows has been inspiring, contributing greatly to my development.”

For Beving, it was a natural step to take, and arguably overdue. “Doing an album from scratch as a joint project was something Maarten and I wanted to try for a while now,” he says. “When my deal came to an end, we saw an opportunity to start making music. I’m always trying to create small worlds for the listener to temporarily live in. Working with Maarten and Nils has helped immensely in achieving this. Maarten is a sculptor of sound and Nils is, well…the master of sound!”

Most of ‘vision of contentment’ was written and recorded during July, 2023, after Beving and Vos unpacked their gear – recording equipment, various synths, a cello – to join the upright piano awaiting them in de berenpan, a shed hidden away in the forest outside Bilthoven, a small village in the Dutch province of Utrecht. The friends had already spent time together in Beving’s Amsterdam studio as well as Vos’ Funkhaus setup, sessions from which two further album tracks are taken, but their week in the countryside would prove particularly fruitful, if for uncomfortably poignant reasons. Out of their sometimes-sombre work emerged a universal eulogy to what the pianist calls “Finding comfort in the acceptance of the inevitable,” but the album represents far more than this. It’s also an astonishing personal tribute to Mark Brounen, their friend and, in Beving’s case, manager.

Vos considers the haunting sounds of ‘vision of contentment’ “a sonic landscape that encourages imaginative exploration”, and the duo talk of Morten Feldman as a musical guide, and Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto as ‘mentors’. Beving, meanwhile, says he intends to leave listeners with a simple sense of love, adding that he hopes it will also enable “a search for harmony and understanding” that also delivers “a big fuck you to fascists and fear!”

Certainly, the album’s founded upon multiple ideas of serenity, whether in our world or the afterlife, opening with the brassy sounds of ‘on what must be’, whose subsequent Eno- and Budd-esque minimalism mixes sorrow, resignation and beauty. It closes, too, with ‘The boat’, a quiet but quietly uplifting piece which Beving says represents “The morning after the storm, the appraisal of the tides, the acceptance of what is past and the dawn of a new day, a new life.”

In between these sensitive bookends are half a dozen tracks: the ghostly, sometimes atonal ‘Penumbra’, the muffled, nostalgic ‘A night in Reno’ and the amorphous, unsettling ‘Hades’. ‘The heron’’s mournful cello, on the other hand, is quickly lightened by an almost impossibly luxurious piano melody disturbed only by what could be noises from an unearthly presence in the room. ’02:07’, furthermore, is the sound of a life well lived departing for a better place, while the title track’s spacious, quietly epic nine minutes seem somehow to celebrate absence itself.

Transitions are a theme on ‘vision of contentment’, not least because, by the time Beving and Vos had settled down in the woods, their friend Brounen had been fighting cancer for three years. And yet, if his imminent ‘passing over’ cast a shadow upon proceedings, it’s wasn’t exclusively a cause for sadness. “The central theme here is the ‘Blue Hour’, the twilight,” Beving explains. “Transitioning from one state to the other, but also embracing the darkness. Mark had shown a remarkable way of dealing with his disease and impending end. He was at peace with his destiny.”

Vos and Beving managed to see their friend in the days leading up to his loss, and were together in the studio when they ultimately learned he’d passed away, immediately turning to their instruments to put their feelings into music. The moment is captured on the deeply affecting ‘02:07’, named after the hour the news arrived, but each of ‘vision of contentment’’s pieces is similarly illuminated by his existence in their lives. Indeed, adding to this familial meeting of minds, the cover features a painting by Canada’s Alex Coma – another friend who’d also got to know Brounen – which lends the album its name.

“I immediately knew it was the image that encapsulated this record,” says Beving. “The white heron is a symbol of wisdom, inner-knowing and spiritual growth, something that described Mark’s state of mind at the end of his life. The boat is the vessel that transports us to another realm, and the ‘Blue Hour’ symbolises the twilight, the transition from dark to light and vice versa. It’s the happiest and saddest of hours. Knowing this, understanding impermanence and accepting it as a beautiful and essential part of life, leads to a sense of contentment.”

As touching an achievement as The Durutti Column’s A Paean to Wilson, Vini Reilly’s salute to his own manager and Factory Records’ boss Anthony Wilson, ‘vision of contentment’ may be stylistically very different, but it’s similarly cathartic, spiritually awakening and ultimately full of love.