Left Bank Is Communicating With the Ecstasy of the Past

Jaap van der Doelen speaks to Daan and Luuk van den Brink about how they're using sampling to breathe new life in the treasured lore of their hometown Nijmegen, the Netherlands.
By    May 1, 2024

Album Cover via Multiversum Muziek/BandCamp

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Jaap van der Doelen spends his Sundays drinking espresso and revisiting Cuban Linx II.

“Hey, you guys still open?” Luuk van den Brink asked the few times he knocked on the window in the Grotestraat (Great Street). When everything in the nightlife of Nijmegen, one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands, seemed to have died down but the night somehow still felt too young to give up on, Extase was always left as a last resort. “And then you’d enter a poorly lit space, where a handful of people would be standing up against the wall with a look that said ‘the hell are you doing here?’

He remembers the no-nonsense bar personnel, the foosball game in the cellar with that characteristic curved ceiling and the reggaeton blasting out of its speakers. “There was something authentic about it. But in my experience, you always had to be on your guard. Anything could happen there.”

Extase opened its doors in the 1960s, and closed them in 2020. After it shuttered, a large part of the impressive vinyl collection stored in its basement, was offered a few streets over, at renowned Nijmegen record store Waaghals. This was the same place that employed Luuk and his brother Daan, also known as the instrumental hiphop-duo Left Bank. When they first saw it, they couldn’t believe their eyes.

“Wow, if you’d play this in a DJ-set, it’d be really cutting edge”, the brothers said about the swath of obscure jazz,funk, and disco records. Customers who frequented the bar before the turn of the century had told them how it used to be a place where you’d hear great music like nowhere else. Now they were suddenly confronted with the evidence of those halcyon days.

“It immensely spoke to our imagination,” Luuk says.

The only problem was that the records were unsaleable. “They were incredibly dirty, reeked like hell and were covered in mold”, Daan says. “A few days later, both of us fell ill.”

They cleaned everything up as best they could, but decided to record the best bits before they’d offer the records up for sale.

“Just to keep it from splintering over a ton of other collections. We didn’t have the idea yet to make a project out of it, but wanted to preserve a record of it to take in now that it was still all together,” Daan says.

The beat creators consciously put the needle to the groove while the records were still full of muck. “When we sample a record, I like to record it as is”, Daan explains. “You want to create something new out of it, so you’re not going to clean it up. It adds texture to the music.”

After a few months, the contours of an album began to show itself. “We had created a lot of beats and it suddenly dawned on us all the source material came out of that batch of records from Extase,” Luuk reminisces. “That gave it a structure of sorts straight away”, his brother adds.

The result is an album titled Kelder Extase. (which translates as Cellar Ecstasy). A musical trip in which they imagine the glory age of that illustrious bar. Daan considers it an enormous compliment that its clientele from that era, recognize the mood they build through it. “‘Cause we never experienced that period ourselves. We can only put our own spin on it, and imagine what it was like.”

It even heralded a return of those sounds to the night life of Nijmegen. This time, not in a musky basement full of marijuana clouds, but accompanying cocktails in a bar like Paak. “It’s a very trendy vinyl bar where they play this kind of music,” Luuk knows. “Our record turned out to be remarkably popular there.”

And so the repurposed moldy vinyl eventually led to a small resurrection of a treasured piece of hometown history. “Mold is something that clings to an object, using it as a source of nutrition, grows, lives and becomes something new”, Luuk summarizes. “That’s what we translated into music with this record.”

“It’s beautiful how that works,” Daan says. “When you create sample-based music, you’re communicating with the past. Which allows it to return in a different form.”

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