Monday, November 27, 2006

In Honour of Urk

Maybe you've never heard of Nits, the Dutch art-pop band. They've been around since 1974 and have achieved periodic fame, but arguably their "high point" was in 1988.

They'd just had a major hit with their "In the Dutch Mountains" album and were on a successful world tour. The band line-up was as solid and strong as it would ever be: long-time members Henk Hofstede (vocals, guitars) and Rob Kloet (drums), with innovative keyboardist Robert Jan Stips and recent member Joke Geraets on bass. They had a great stage backdrop: a rack of 32 hanging plates that could be swiftly moved around to create simple shapes (a car, a hat). As evidenced on "In the Dutch Mountains," which was recorded live to tape, the four of them were totally in sync: no edits or overdubs necessary.

The tour was archived as "Urk," a double-live CD of 29 songs, covering their career to that point. "Urk" is simply stunning; they rework their new wave classics -- usually improving on them -- and play all the new "stripped down" hits. You can tell they're loving what they do and that they are getting along very well with each other.

Sadly, the video for "Urk" was truncated -- only 13 songs -- and was impossible to get in North America. I don't know if it was ever released in NTSC format. Us hungry listeners wondered: why's the audience laughing during "An Eating House?" What's with the ten seconds of silence during "Port of Amsterdam?" What did it look like when the Amsterdam Saxophone Quartet blew everybody away with the new, subtle version of "Mask," which -- in its original format -- was an overproduced piece of unbearable schlock?

Without fanfare, Nits have re-released "Urk," now on DVD with an additional five songs (which their lighting director rescued from the garbage), a video diary, and a photo gallery. And holy cow it's good.

So in honour of Urk here's the inevitable YouTube rip of "Cabins." Once again, the original version was overproduced and far too slick, but here they've tightened and stripped it to fine-tuned frenzy. As an added bonus you get to see all four members at their fastest and finest.


Anonymous said...

Oh wow. I never pictured them rocking out like that.

I always dug Rob Kloet's work on albums like Ting.

Adam Thornton said...

They certainly had their rock-out moments!

Ting was their "minimalism" album, which strangely also included a hugely expanded Kloet drum set (and, often, a second percussionist). I agree, the drums in Ting are wonderful (and the duelling pianos too!)