The sun is shining, the tall grass is waving directions and, with elegant strokes, the tail of a barn swallow is painting its slow and winding flight. That’s the imagery in the title track of Accidental Pictures, the new album by Ruud Houweling, the follow up to his acclaimed Erasing Mountains (2017). With the alternative folk on that record he’d found a new musical direction, born from the heartfelt need to create a contemporary sound  that beholds something of its geographic origin.

The layered songs, constructed around the guitar playing and vocal, move on emphatic grooves, while tuba, trombone, clarinet and viola add subtle acoustic European flavors, from both folk and classical music (Fauré, Debussy, Weill). His sixth studio album (four under the Cloudmachine moniker) is an eclectic singer-songwriter record in which you may hear slight influences from Paul Simon, Randy Newman or Tom Waits, that breathes authenticity.

On Accidental Pictures a son is letting go of his father. In On a Clear Day, the opening track, they’re standing next to each other in a dream, on the bridge across the river they once lived on. Together they’re picking up the shadow of the suffocating religion that has damaged the father as a child, that he’s just managed to free himself of, hoisting it into the river. Free at last, the father crosses the bridge. Bass, drums and guitar represent the flowing river. Viola and pump organ conjure up images of calming reflections in the water. In Secret Wounds they walk though their old street. Going through the past, the son realizes he’s able to see his father completely, but his father can’t see him in the same way. 

Above all though, this is a feel good record. Written from a longing for light in a time of uncertainty. Everything seems to have changed, looking back amazed by the coincidences of existence and the inevitable temporality of it. There’s a pleasant distance to the world. It’s about seeing why you’ve become who you are, understanding others better at the same time. And, free from the pull of old desires, asking oneself, “where am I, where to next?’

Houweling again helmed the production himself. He recorded the foundation of the songs with Rob Wijtman on drums and Egon Kracht on double bass. The remaining parts were almost entirely recorded played ensemble, by the same musicians who were responsible for the strong chemistry on the previous album. On trombone Kobi Arditi (K.O. Brass), tuba Patrick Votrian (K.O. Brass, De Kift), viola Ro Krauss (Släpstick), clarinet Michiel van Dijk, accordion Rik Cornelissen and cello David Faber (Dudok Quartet).

The mixing was done in the studio of renowned producer Tucker Martine (Madison Cunningham, Bill Frisell, Sufjan Stevens, the Decemberists) in Portland, Oregon, once again by renowned engineer Oz Fritz (Tom Waits, Bill Laswell, Pharoah Sanders). The album was mastered by Howie Weinberg (Nirvana, Jeff Buckley, Sheryl Crow, RHCP)

Accidental Pictures will be released 29 September 2023