Dutch songwriter Christof van der Ven is, essentially, your favourite artists' favourite artist.
His work in music extends back over a decade, lush indie folk tapestries that seem to sweep you off your feet on first listen.
Debut album 'Empty Handed' has been a long time coming, but it will hopefully mark the point where the world at large begins to fully appreciate this special songwriter.
Out now, Clash managed to get some friends, admirers, acquaintances, and famous fans to guide us through Christof's new album. Here's what they had to say.
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'Hold Me' - Sivu
'Hold Me; had me smitten after the opening line, its a tender and beautiful introduction to this record. I love the space in this track which allows me to switch off and focus on the journey of Christof’s beautiful lyrics, and above anything lush songwriting. I very much wish I wrote this song. I hope you lose yourself in this record as I have.
'You Left It Too Long' - Kevin Jones (Bear’s Den / Communion Records Co-founder)
I love the production on this song, the harpsichord-esque synth part, the laziness of the drums, the explosiveness of the choruses. There’s a laid back summery feel to the song, a sense of space which I love, and I also love how Christof writes melodies, he’s got a unique approach and this song is a great example of that. What a legend.
'Never Never' - Mikeala Davis
'Never Never' stood out to me right away - whether it be the immediate groove of the drums making my head nod or the fact that each part carries an equally catchy melody. As soon as electric guitar kicks in before the chorus, the song steps away from being worried about a friend “twisting everything out of place” to feeling more hopeful, “together we’ll never lose you, and we will celebrate.”
Even though this track sheds positive light on a scenario that may have been toxic, I find it interesting that the very last lyric you hear is “It’s forever ever lasting” - then the song ends. Maybe it’s not forever lasting like you’d think? Generally, an artists lyrics are open to interpretation, but I always like to think there’s a hidden message.
Christof’s music definitely falls into the world of folk and could be compared to the likes of Sufjan Stevens, Fleet Foxes, Andy Shauf. 'Never Never' is a powerful pop song on an album of intimate folk tunes, and I can’t wait to hear what’s next!
'Love's Glory' - Liza Anne
'Love’s Glory' embodies the delicate and fierce nature of a lingering past love - using all the right words and inflections to mimic the weightiness of that person on your mind. It is equal parts reminiscent nostalgia and a forced presence.
It’s a harsh reality doused in dream-like-look-backs at a love you’re missing in a tangible way - tangible because winter turns skin cold and reminds you that your body was warmer when love was in your bed.
'Empty Handed' - Andrew Davie (Bear’s Den)
I first heard 'Empty Handed' in a fantastic venue called The Sailing Club in Orkney in the Highlands of Scotland where Christof was opening up for us on tour. It’s just one of those songs that never gets old for me.
Everytime I hear it, it’s like I’m hearing it for the first time. All the beautiful little metaphors and melodies and that incredible voice. It's not just one of my favourite songs by Christof, it's one of my favourite songs and I still listen to it all the time.
'From Montreal' - Emily Staveley-Taylor (The Staves)
'From Montreal' is a beauty. I love it when songs make me feel like I’m moving. And Christof’s voice sounds perfect on this track. The lyrics are very evocative of the specific sort of loneliness, or rather aloneness, that travelling through foreign lands can bring, but it’s also upbeat and defiant. If you get the chance, ask him to tell you the story behind this one!
'No One Is Here' - Matt Hegarty (Matthew & The Atlas)
'No One Is Here' is a hypnotic journeying song which gently guides you through shimmering delayed banjos and electronic rhythms. It’s a beauty!
'Killed This Stone-Dead' - Willy Mason
Christof recently opened for me at the Moth Club in London. His crafted sound, deservedly confident performance, and singular humor were an integral part of a wild and inspired evening. 'Killed This Stone-Dead' is one of the pieces he played that night, and true to the opening line "with a heavy chest I walk" it moves with the weighted, focused pace of someone walking through a difficult and revelatory thought.
The track swells beautifully from a sole finger picked guitar and bell-like voice, painted gracefully across crisp rivers of reverberation. The steady pulse begins to feel a bit like the footsteps of the protagonist, musing on a complex and evolving relationship. The result is a reflective atmosphere of urgency, tragedy, and strength; nestled in a soothing dance of sound.
'Oh When The Night' - Jessica Staveley-Taylor
Christof asked us to sing on this song of his and I remember going in to the studio right at the beginning of the new year and having such a lovely time. It felt a such a special way to start the year - making great music with a great friend. This song has a mournful and wistful quality to it but also a soothing one, that gets me every time - regret, hanging on, hope. 'Soon we’ll be OK’.
'Vancouver' - Luke Sital-Singh
I love closing album tracks. I’m always excited to see how an artist chooses to finish a record. Just by definition the last track leaves you with the final impression of the whole. Christof’s 'Vancouver' hits all the right buttons for me as a closing track and also just as a song in general. It’s soft and beautiful, with a gorgeous movement to the melody and with no distinct chorus it reminds me of a classic folk ballad, which is a major plus in my book.
I also love the layers to the lyrics. On first listen I interpreted it as a song about feeling lost and confused in a city, and it totally works on that level, but then I learned of the more specific meditation on Vancouver’s opioid crisis, which adds even more weight and depth. I love songs that can speak to us on more than one level like that.
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'Empty Handed' is out now.
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