During the height of the pandemic, the lockdowns were really taking a toll on people in the music industry. We all had to get creative and look for ways in which musicians could play, record, and perform for a small audience in the heart of Amsterdam. Between October and December 2021, Steppin’ Into Tomorrow, Amarte Studio Concerts, and Flowriders Studio joined forces and came up with a solution for local artists in particular: intimate studio concerts.
Over the course of these two months, the Dutch-based artists invited their close friends and family as an audience to set foot on the ground they make their music from, creating a private and sonically soothing atmosphere. The live studio audience was listening in through a set of headphones, to ensure the highest quality experience for both audio-recording and in-person listening, as it was being captured live, both sonically and visually (special shoutout to Tijmen de Nooy for the beautiful photography & Leslie Wilkes for capturing these moments on camera).
The result of these recording sessions is 'Loyal To The Soil, Vol.1', a compilation to be released on January 27th on Wicked Wax digitally & also on vinyl (pre-order here). Looking back, it was a unique moment in time, historically, but creatively as well. The artists all managed to capture serenity in the midst of disorder existing beyond the confines of the studio. Every recording attains a piece of tranquility in its own respective way, but all converge on the fact that the music reaches us from the vast Dutch musical landscape.
Loyal to the soil, here, is not meant as some form of national pride, but instead as seeing musicians being situated in a cultural environment that they deem either useful or contestable, which is presented through their music. It sees musicians as interpreters of what happens around us and translates this into their own creative makings.
We’re extremely grateful for the opportunity to create these moments where live music and honest expressions intertwine. In conversation with the artists, we selected one track of each performance for this compilation, to present you with a glimpse into the heterogeneous ways in which Dutch artists interpret and shape the music from Dutch soil. Let's take a moment to individually introduce all of the acts that are represented within this selection, along with glimpses from the recording sessions.
Brintex Collective is a six-piece Rotterdam-based groove monster raised on the tunes of Kamaal Williams, Yussef Dayes, Alfa Mist, Joe Armon-Jones and Robert Glasper. Led by keyboard player Brenn Luiten, they started as a three-piece band consisting of young musicians. Over the recent years, they’ve been growing into a stable, confident and conscious crew. Inspired by jazz, hip-hop, electronic music and all the diverse interests of the musicians, they come to a fresh and flexible whole that gives the audience a boost of energy. (Brenn Luiten - keys, Joop de Graaf - bass, Christopher Rijckaert - drums, Fanni Zahar - flute, Tommy van Leuken - synth/guitar)
2. kotokid - 'Hoop (Live at Flowriders Studio)' Freek Mulder, also known as kotokid, is an Amsterdam based bass player and producer. His music being middle ground between alternative R&B and hiphop, and 80s jazz fusion, he renders undiscovered environments, with improvisation and composition existing as equals in his music. Bringing together live drums and drumcomputers, sequenced analog synths and lush guitar chords and solos, and heavy synth basses alternated with pulsating bass guitar grooves. The listening experience reflects the feeling. Packed with complex compositions, yet full of light sonically and spiritually.
3. Greyheads - 'Johnny Panda (Live at Flowriders Studio)'
Multi-dimensional electronic and hip hop sounds come together with overwhelming R&B and jazz grooves in the 7 pieces band Greyheads based in Rotterdam and led by drummer Nello Biasini. Greyheads is a grooving blend of exciting interactions between live electronics and poly-rhythmic beats. The set of original compositions is enriched by strong arrangements and improvisations mixed with samples and atmospheric sounds.
(Alessandro Russo - sax Matthijs Geerts - keys Simone Cesarini - guitar Damien Roussos - bass Nello Biasini - drums)
4. Bahghi - 'All One (Live at Flowriders Studio)'
Singer and songwriter Bahghi Yemane stands in her power with heartfelt, personal, and very honest music. While exploring her own artistic voice, she delivers messages of transformation, (self-) love and the courage to take up space, accompanied by the multi-talented Rory Ronde on the second guitar and legendary Ronald Snijders on flute. Bahghi has recently released the entire live session from Flowriders as a full album, and you can read more about it in an interview we did with her not too long ago.
(Bahghi Yemane - vocals, guitar Rory Ronde - guitar Ronald Snijders - flute)
Liquid Spirits is the body-and-brainchild of two exceptional and experienced musicians, Wiboud Burkens (keys) and Manuel Hugas (bass), who earned their spurs playing with many world-famous musicians. To name a few, they accompanied Lalah Hathaway (daughter of Donny), Indira Kahn (daughter of Chaka), Simone (daughter of Nina), Deniece Williams and Nona Hendryx on a highly successful world tour. At the root of Liquid Spirits’ high acclaim is their hand-crafted indie soul & groove: authentic music, played by flesh and blood musicians, on real and mostly vintage instruments. That’s why their music sounds like the best of both worlds – whether you play the recording on your favorite device, or you hear them play it live for you in a club or a studio.
(Ivan Peroti - vocals Wiboud Burkens - keys Manuel Hugas - bass Eric Hoeke - drums)
6. NAUSYQA - 'The Valley (Live at Flowriders Studio)'
NAUSYQA consists of six musicians from Portugal, Spain, Italy, and the Netherlands. They are influenced by film soundtracks (yes, Hayao Miyazaki's 'Nausicaa and the Valley of the Wind' is on the list), electronic music, post-rock and flamenco, and contemporary jazz. Engaging grooves, evocative melodies, and visceral improvisations.
(Antonio Moreno Glazkov - trumpet Miguel Valente - alto sax Pedro Nobre - drums Antonio Todisco - guitar Richard Nacinelli - bass Jelle Willems - piano)
7. Floatmonki - 'Lemongrass (Live at Flowriders Studio)'
Floatmonki is a fusion of electronic textures, soothing synths, jazz harmonies and cathartic releases with the raw edge of progressive rock music. Never losing the power of the song, forever searching for new formats to mould into. As a brainchild of vocalist and composer Donna van Dijck, Floatmonki’s music tells intimate stories of rebirth, exploration and ardour, all rooted in a jazz-fusion framework. Leading vocals serenade lush instrumentals. With introspective and heartfelt lyrics, the band invites you on an autobiographical journey through personal experiences of hardship, comfort and resolution. Hints of Bjork and 80s jazz fusion are topped off with Hiatus Kaiyote-esque aesthetics to create an ethereal feeling, undoubtedly leaving many listeners with a sense of empathy.
(Donna van Dijck - vocals Robbert Suilen - backing vocals Freek Mulder - bass Jonathan Szegedi - drums Maarten Cima - guitar)
8. QUANZA - 'Gitana (Live at Flowriders Studio)'
Quincy Fung-Loy, known mononymously as QUANZA, is a Dutch-Surinamese producer, guitarist, composer and Musicology graduate of the University of Utrecht. His music fuses different aesthetics that range from electronic jazz to avant-garde hip-hop. The Utrecht-native makes a bold introspective statement, surely to be held in high regard by many.
We thank each artist not only for the blessing of putting this intimate project together but trusting us with our aim to unite the local music scene. New EPs, collaborations, releases and tracks have followed these studio sessions and we truly hope that the local scene keeps on thriving.
Steppin' Into Tomorrow is an ever-growing Amsterdam-based music platform, built by a collective of like-minded music heads that highlight quality sounds from the Dutch soil and beyond. Thanks to the Steppin’ fam for building this platform together: Kay, Timo, Mabel, Tijmen, Leslie, Becc, Jelle, Ruben, Leroy, Marco, Stijn and Daan. A special shout-out to the team at the Amarte Foundation for trusting us with this unique project. Amarte Studio Concerts is an initiative by the Amarte Foundation, which supports and highlights talented artists that seek to create innovative projects and develop their art. With sessions recorded across unique locations such as Flowriders Studio, De Roode Bioscoop or Studio 150/Bethlehemkerk in Amsterdam, it offers high quality live concerts with eclectic but also experimental programming focussed on four main genres: pop, jazz, classical, and world music.
Recorded & mixed: Vincent Helbers at Flowriders Studio, Amsterdam Assistant: Anis Oopkes Mastered: Johanz (Deepgrooves) Artwork: Marco van Bijsteren Photography: Tijmen de Nooy Executive producer: Lucas Benjamin
One more thing. In order to properly celebrate this milestone in course of the 2-year long existence of Steppin' Into Tomorrow as a collective, we're throwing a party at Radio Radio Amsterdam and we can't wait to celebrate it all together with you!
Steppin' Into Tomorrow stands with artists & labels and encourages listeners to support by buying their music directly from Bandcamp. If you've enjoyed this article, please consider subscribing to our monthly newsletter to stay in the loop.