Music can be a wonderful thing. It has the ability to be a thing of beauty, of perfect escapism and to touch many lives in many ways. But perhaps its most amazing feature is its variety. From Girls Aloud to Mozart through Oasis and even the bloody Kaiser Chiefs, every artist means something to someone. Or not, as here comes Verplanken, an artist so fundamentally warped and complicated that it’s tricky to imagine how anyone can derive anything approaching meaningful from his work. Apart from, perhaps, the press release writer. The most interesting and capturing element of "The Missing Tracks" is the frankly hilarious album “presentation” which accompanies the CD (and is featured on the website for those of you game for a laugh). Even allowing for the language difficulties (its written by someone French) it's probably the most pretentious piece of twaddle ever to grace pretentiousness, and makes even the first few lines of this review seem like a child’s story book. It certainly builds up the expectations, as apparently: “What makes Verplanken’s music so captivating is that it’s more an intuitive and instinctive performance than a cerebral or intellectual one.” Right.
So what does this “astonishing sonic odyssey” actually sound like. Well, over the five tracks lasting thirty five minutes, it becomes clear that Verplanken’s music is less, um, music and more a collection of sounds. First piece (it can hardly be called a song) “Voyage” is ten minutes of some atmospheric background noise, some chimey twinkly noise, and not a bit else. The next one “On The Edge” is a welcome relief at a mere six minutes, and at least has elements which could be called musical notes, a bit of improvisation (which is to be expected, considering “Verplaken’s work is unwritten. It is thought, imagined and shaped in the mind a long time before it comes out spontaneously through (said) improvisations”) and maybe even some electric guitar. The third endurance test, “Island” is notable only for being a pacy five minutes long. By “Looking For The Sun” and “Welcome”, though, Verplanken’s “distinctive and ambitious style” and “undeniable creativity” is so brainmushing that it all merges into one painful warped blurrghh.
It is true that these compositions are “elaborate, sometimes sophisticated, but always deep and intense”. Unfortunately, they’re so deep that they practically reach Australia. Yes it has to be handed to Verplanken that he’s different, that he’s very unconventional and isn’t some publicity hungry media whore. But these pieces don’t even approach something your ordinary joe music fan would ever want to listen to. And that’s the basic and unsolvable problem with this demo. Whatever music is, it should be alluring and accessible in some way. This, for all its ingenuity, most certainly isn’t. (Give the press release writer a book deal though; “a profound impact on listeners’ feelings and emotions…dedicated to a large audience”? Please, Harry Potter is more believable than that, what an imagination.)