There are many urban myths about what constitutes the essence of the Dutch Underground. Resident cynics could say that current attention is focused on a clever reheating of ideas and sounds that first burst forth to very little acclaim a decade ago. Still there’s really nothing wrong with such things being given a shiny new coat and a good scrub up. And those in search of “something darker”, as Peter Cook would have said, need to nose around elsewhere.
One thing that is unquestionably true about “Dutch Underground” musicians is the fact that many hook up to work together on a multitude of projects, regardless of their sonic affiliations. We see this with Oliver Oat’s new LP, Juniper Resin, which is the fruits of the collective labours of members of Bonne Aparte, Luik, Herrek and Lost Bear; not to mention the Tiny Room and Samling labels. All these musicians do a wide variety of things in their native land, but they’ve been about long enough to know how to employ their own sonic take on the Dutch polder model when needed.
Be warned; this is a record that is both moreish and pretty damned heavy. The subject matter is grim (drink, murder, death, depression), all things that also have been lived through; if you will pardon the pun. But there’s an understanding that the record has to be listened to. And you, the listener, have to enjoy it. And as such it’s a hell of a listen, gripping in turns, veering between a sort of Gainsbourg / Mick Harvey cabaret pop and a queasy lounge disco. It’s deftly handled and the band know when to deploy their talents, often to hilarious effect.
This record also has roots in the Dutch tradition of nederlandstalige chanson; a sort of grassroots alt-cabaret pop seen in the work of such as Meindert Talma, Arend B Blauw, Henk and Melle, Harry Merry, Roosbief, De Jonge Boschfazant, Marc van der Holst, or Johnny Jordaan. The uninitiated could use it as an English-language gateway into the feelings conjured up by those just mentioned. There is plenty to enjoy here regardless; ‘Milk and Cigarettes’ and the glorious ‘The Glass’ being stand-outs in this regard.