The debut album by cellist ‘Joost van Dongen’ entitled “The Ageless Gate’ is more than just a project, for it has literally been a labour of love, and the result of many hours of hard work. The difficulty of adding further segments when time has allowed, between, a demanding work schedule that he has created for himself. A unique niche in the gaming world involving the development of computer games and associated music for such video delights as ‘Awesomenauts’, ‘Blightbound’, ‘De Blob’ ,‘Proun’ and the ‘Shadow Prophet’ web-comic. More spectacularly he has developed a game entitled ‘Cello Fortress’ whereby the movement of computer-generated characters and associated armaments are controlled directly by the pitch, tempo and dynamics of live improvised music from ‘Joosts’ cello. There are some interesting ‘YouTube’ posts demonstrating this game in action and showing several players using conventional joysticks whilst Joost manipulates his weaponry via the strings of his cello.
Anyhow, Dutch cellist ‘Joost van Dongen’ is a former member of ‘Kunstorkest’ (the baroque student orchestra of the Netherlands) and has composed and recorded this charming thirteen track interrelated concept album of cello led progressive rock music.
The ‘Ageless Gate’ is an in-depth symphonic suite comprising thirteen cello led tracks coupled together with an engaging storyline of what could be considered to be of video game proportions. It is an album that will delight and enthral you not only for the atmospheric and opulent cello sounds but also for the engaging spoken narrative (which apparently can be deleted if eventually felt to be too much of an intrusion). Not only does the cello create and conjure up numerous soundscapes throughout the entire programme but in addition, its various tones facilitate a plethora of different sensations and impressions of movement, horror terror and anguish particularly as the story unfolds. Joost certainly brings the cello to life as he employs every technique applicable to the playing and manipulation of this unusual lead instrument, bow work, ostinato, string plucking, and of course the control needed to create the many varying degrees of tone. In fact, the project could be considered to be a preverbal A-Z of what is possible to play on the cello. However, whilst the cello quite dominates the musical flow there is a top-notch selection of support musicians drafted in on drums, guitar, bass, percussion, and violin. Each providing wonderful backing accompaniment adornments and solid bridging or melodic transitions between the various scores. The engaging storyline follows the transportation of an evil presence, contained within a gemstone, over three different centuries. A presence that has horrible effects on people turning them mad (just like Jack Torrance in the Shinning -All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy") and seemingly in the bargain trying to move over to a parallel existence through a stargate effect. The story is quite fun and wonderfully narrated by actor Chris Einspahr, and without doubt, adds to the spirit of the music emphasising and bolstering the atmosphere being created by the excellent music.
As an aside -There are not many occasions when, outside of classical music, the beautiful and deeply resonant tones of the Cello are featured as the lead instrument throughout an entire rock-inspired musical project. Of course, and in particular within the sphere of the more progressive orientated realms of rock music the Cello is often utilised to create both an atmospheric feel and a sense of drama to the proceedings. But the cello is hardly ever used as the lead instrument throughout an entire programme. However, there have been exceptions and a particularly good example to cite was a set of ‘Paganini Variations’ written by Andrew Lloyd Webber but featuring his brother Julian on Cello. It was a project fusing classical music with rock music
Joost van Dongen: cello, instrument programming, glockenspiel (4)
Marissa Delbressine: vocals (4)
Thomas van Dijk: acoustic guitar (4), bass guitar (6)
Mijnke van der Drift: violin (11, 13)
Chris Einspahr: narration
John Maasakkers: drums (2, 6, 9, 11), percussion (2, 9)
Joyce Scheeren: vocals (6)
Tracks IN ANCIENT TIMES *
1. SANDRTDER 5:35
2. THE DAYSA1LER AND THE NIGHT CAVE 5:30
3. GROWL 2:23
4. HEAR HER TYPEWRITER HUMMING 4:16
5. A CENTURY SAILS BY 1:49
6. THE LIGHT DEEP DOWN 4:06
7. TENSOR 2:52
8. THE MASTER WAITS 2:40
9. THEN THE HALLS WERE EMPTY..
AND I TURNED IT ONI 6:27
10. GROM 2:44
11. A CENTURY FLIES BY 2:28
12. APPROACH OF THE DERELTCT RESEARCH STATION 4:53
13. LAMENT 1:33