Crate Skimmers #39 Space Siren-If You Scream Like That, Your Monkey Won’t Come

Owned since: 2014

Genre: Shoegaze-tinged slowcore indie-rock

Where I bought it: straight from the band 

Year: 2010 and 2014

Label/pressing: Katzwijm, Subroutine

When I first came up with the idea of crate skimmers it was in a list of idea I put in a wordpad document for music writing stuff for this site. One that nearly took it’s place was a showcase of Dutch music over the years which never came to be for allot of reasons. If there is a country that hates his own stuff it’s the Netherlands, a commonly used phrase forever in reviews was ‘On-Nederlands goed’ which means unlikely good for a Dutch band. Were like the cool kids staring at our past exploits like their embarrassing. The same happens with allot of other Dutch media; allot of our more interesting movies been out of print for sometimes decades or never were in print after original runs. Same goes for allot of music, most of the great bands are weird sidenotes with their stuff not in print at all or discussed. The Dutch audience still thinks Dutch music mostly is just very lame even there is a great tradition there in nearly every genre. From the ICP orchestra and Willem Breuker’s influence on EU free-jazz, the ground breaking technical death metal of Pestilence, 60’s staples like Shocking Blue and 70’s ones like the Golden Earring and important for this entry the Dutch indie-wave.

Starting in the 80’s there is a whole slew of indie bands that made niche waves outside of the country coming from the Netherlands. Someone who was paying attention on the 80/90s might have heard the warm jangly rock of Bettie Seveert(Bresson note: Palomine turns 30 this year), the Nits unique keyboard driven art-pop and broody shoegaze of The Nightblooms. Playing in the lower regions for sure but still getting a fair bit of alternative papers notice was Zoppo, a pretty loose personal band hailing from Rotterdam and surroundings. Heavily indebted to lo-fi bands like sebadoh and Smog early on their sound slowly formed to a more focused sound that recalls bands like (later) polvo and other smart American indie-rock that edges close to math and noise-rock. 2006’s Don’t Trust Scarred Survivors is their definitive album and a lost classic of Dutch indie-rock according to me that honestly never really gets discussed anymore. They soon split afterwards but were already a band in a band with their keyboardist and bassist being part of Seesaw.

Seesaw is one of those bands that always was playing supporting gigs and never really made it which sucks. One of the best indie-rock bands the Netherlands spotted in the late 90s/ mid 00’s their sound recalled allot of stuff on Touch & Go records and the spikey slowcore of a Carrissa’s Weird. 3 great records on small indie labels that never really took off but are absolutely wonderful if you are into that kind of music. When Seesaw disbanded in 2004 half of the band joined Zoppo which then disbanded around 2006 which left bassist and keyboardist duo Corno Zwetsloot and Ineke Duivenvoorde without a band for the first time since the mid 90s. Zwetsloot started to do allot of production work in the late 90s in his next to jaap studio in the tiny town of Voorhout which was were a ton of mostly forgotten Dutch indie-rock bands where recorded and slowly also turned into a beer brewery. This all leading to Space Siren forming around 2007 which is well how most Dutch bands work, a endless circle of people joining together in other line-ups.

Space Siren, named after a Pram song, started around the time I was going to allot of shows and regularly they were a opening act or one of the token Dutch entries at a festival. Adding members from the always outstanding AC Berkheimer in vocalist/guitarist Gwendolien Douglas and Aico Turba on bass the band had a bit of whose who of the Dutch indie scene going. Taking Seesaw’s sound to a slightly more heavy shoegaze direction there still was allot of Carissa’s Weird in there but the band also made something that really felt quite unique for the scene at the time with the band just endlessly playing live. This lead to them becoming one of the few Dutch bands I always went out of my way to catch; if it was at a obscure youth club venue two towns over, playing the opening spot at the insane traveling the Ex festival in 2014 of which I catched 4 of it’s 5 dates or playing the basement of a local venue. There wasn’t really a band as well tuned as this bunch of veterans of the Dutch music scene spiraling out this loud but oh so well measured mix of shoegaze, noise-rock and slight 

If You Scream Like That, Your Monkey Won’t Come is their second full length following some splits and a tremendous double 7-inch. It is also their best record which replaces the more slight shoegaze stuff of the first record for a sound that is still heavy indebted to it but is allot more diverse. There’s a tons of reference points for this but one that always come to mind for me is slightly forgotten 90’s cult gazers Swirlies who also buried catchy indie-rock songs under layers of vacuum distortion and post-hardcore influences.

Punchy is a good work for it, it misses the volume of their live shows but makes up for it with a pretty fittingly brick-walled production by Zwetsloot that makes this all feel like either a splitting headache or a warm bath. Either option seems to be slight the intention of the band even more with Douglas’s heavily effected vocals always drifting behind a cloud of noise where her monotone recalls the best of Stereolab from from time to time. Loads of names being thrown around here because the band never really veered away from honoring their influences but crafted a wonderful slice of shoegaze induced rock music through it. A record that really hasn’t been made since in the Netherlands which is maybe for the best. 

Corno Zwetsloot passed away after a long battle with illness in December 2014 after still playing shows with the band till October that year. With his passing one of the most unique producers of Dutch rock music isn’t here anymore and Space Siren wasn’t a band anymore. His NextToJaap studio still exist in the tiny town of Voorhout and is still home also to the Katzwijm beer brewery(no longer existing) also which makes some great offbeat stuff. It is a sad ending to what might be the best band the Netherlands had for years but with a record like this I can’t think of a better way to go out. 

2023 note: Since this was written somewhere in 2021 stuff happened. Space Siren, kind of, reunited and did release a 10inch of archival recordings with Corno. Their gearing up for some live shows also with a line-up that includes members of HOWRAH filling some spots.