Thuistezien 157 — 24.01.2021

Onze Ambassade Festival 2019

Piyojo has a unique way of enticing you into his strange and beautiful world so effortlessly. Rik Möhlmann is the Dutch visual artist and musician behind the one man project. On stage he is calm and contemplative, a bit distant seeming, and he proves similarly elusive in his online presence. But this only adds to the mystique of his magical electronic-tinged sonic dreamscapes. Originally from Groningen, where he was active both with his solo act but also as a concert organiser, in recent years his creative hub has been The Hague, and his visual aesthetics found in his art also colour the packaging of his releases and the live visuals that often are used in his performances.
Much of his work explores a world of absorbing electronic music, with a clubby dance colour to it. But with his performance at West for the 2019 Onze Ambassade Festival the audience is invited into his more introspective musical side. It's a world to sink into and fade away. A calm world, but also one that is colourful, fun, chaotic and charmingly retro due to the strange 80s electronic synth sounds that form the basis of his musical journeys. The sounds might be old, but the treatment is new and complex.

It’s difficult to pinpoint how his music works, or why it does. It seems like it shouldn’t if one only quickly touches on the eccentric-seeming outer veneer of the music. But once you slip into his world you are captivated. On the one hand there is a feeling of him hinting at a vaporwave-esque aesthetic of exaggerated 80s digital culture used in a way that lies somewhere between homage and ironic appropriation. Vaporwave often is found in mysterious corners of the web, its creators remaining evasive, their music austere yet tongue-in-cheek, and Piyojo seems to feed on a similar mindset in many ways.
But part of the secret of his music’s success seems to be that it gently touches on a nostalgia for early electronic video game and computer game aesthetics of the 80s and 90s. He seems to draw you back into the excitement of early encounters with video games and the dreamy worlds of exploration and fast-moving stimulation they offered young fans. Looking back at such games they will now seem clunky, dated, bizarre and inelegantly glitchy, yet for many they still feel like a safe place to escape to. And one that is synonymous with early awe and wonderment, at the dawn of a consumer-minded digital age that we are only plunged into more and more as we grow older. But back then it was fun and innocent for us.

And then there is the subdued chaos of it. As if a box of vibrant retro electronics somehow explodes in a fantastic trippy firework display you just want to let yourself get absorbed into and enjoy with a calm smile across your face. Ultimately, you just need to fade into the sounds and let them take you to their strange and hypnotic world.

Text: James Alexandropoulos - McEwan