MARK FRANCOMBE Musician, Filmmaker, Game-designer & Kipple-monger


I enjoyed listening to Formatt although at times I felt some of it to be a bit academic and austere. There is not much new in the choice of sounds, clicks, skips, ambient pads and low bit crunch that is served with a fairly large dollop of granular fairy dust. Formatt, AKA Peter Smeekens is based in Belgium and is “Focussing on the digital enforcement of audio, the main goal is to investigate and modulate blends of warm, fuzzy analogs and clean, colder digital signals and patterns”. However, all nicely encapsulated in a wrapping of warm, comfortable reverb. There are also occasional looped radio voices, which I’m a sucker for, disjointed yet subtle typewriter rhythms and muted drones. In one or two places the mp3 file is recorded a tad loud, so that it clips (no excuse for this IMHO) and generally needs some expensive mastering to bring out the warmth to put it up there with ohh, let me see, Fennesz for example? There are in fact some similarities with the aforementioned Italian, in the way that a basically ambient and lush atmosphere is created by the reduction of quality and processing / masking of the source material. The source material being. Well, the usual Musique Concrete / field recording bumps and knocks. Maybe it’s this that gives it an academic feel, but then again, the synthesized drones and pseudo voice sounds are really coming from a more Eno-ish or blimey, even Tangerine dream genre. And it is this blend that I like, that Smeekens has got right, not quite academic electro-acoustic rigidity, and not quite spliffy chill-out.

I see from the bio that he has performed his music in all manner of spaces, installations, collaborations with architects, writers and poets, as well as venues ranging from art-spaces to squatted industrial sites. This makes perfect sense as I can see both the industrial and the atmospheric in Formatt. The harsh is presented with the smooth, the hard surfaces with open spaces and the ambience feels like the soft murmuring of voices experienced in a large foyer, warehouse, or cathedral.

If I’m a bit harsh in my criticism of his choice of sounds I don’t mean to be. I listen to this kind of music all the time and I am very used to the genre and sound palette of glitch and this fits right in. It is high quality and I actually like it a lot. Oh, and strike the Tangerine Dream reference, I don’t know what I was thinking.

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