Christof Van Der Ven is celebrating the launch of his debut album, Empty Handed, after a rather unique musical journey that’s taken him from his hometown of Eindhoven, The Netherlands, to Galway, to London and touring around with Bon Iver, The Boxer Rebellion and mainly Bear’s Den. So it’s safe to say he’s been a busy man, but how did he manage to gain such status without a debut album, as Christof has said about the record: ‘It’s taken me ten years of dragging myself around and playing to whoever would listen, putting out EPs in the hope that they would be heard, and frankly procrastinating in the hope that the elements would combine with enough force to kick my arse into making this album.’.
I’m not sure we can call constantly being on the road ‘procrastination’, but now he’s finally had the chance to polish off his ten-track debut album Empty Handed. This is one of those fantastic albums that hooks you in from the beginning of the first track, in this case ‘Hold Me’ is so fantastically sweet and serene from the beginning that you’re roped in immediately. This track is representative of a lot of this album, wonderfully polished indie/folk inspired pieces overlaid with Christof’s masterful vocals.
Christof has such a soothing voice, perfect for the music that he creates. You feel relaxed, engaged and empowered all at once. Those feelings are really empowered by the lyrics, as lyrically Empty Handed isn’t overly complex. It’s accessible, easy to understand and just a good listen all round.
‘You Left It Too Long’ is my personal standout track, the unexpected drop into bigger drums, sweeter, louder guitar riffs comes completely out of the blue yet feels exactly right. It’s not jarring in anyway, that’s kinda difficult to create, especially for it to feel so cohesive on the first hearing. Whilst Empty Handed does stay more chilled out and slow, it’s a nice departure to take this big loud moment. Similarly, later in the album, ‘No One Is Here”s subtle record crackle backing sets the track away from the rest of the album in a really grand manner. It’s within tracks like these that you can feel the journey that Christof has taken in his music, the influences of touring with The Boxer Rebellion, and the inspiration drawn from Springsteen can be felt earnestly.
‘Montreal’ was written while stranded in Canada on tour- “Its about the end of one era and the beginning of a new one – moving on from old love to a new life” explains Christof. It’s great to feel like you’re on this journey of Christof’s exporation through his sound and music in ten tracks. You can properly feel his folk roots, and feel where he’s picked up some synth and bit of electronics- it’s not ridiculous to say some of this tracks are a little bit alt-pop (good alt-pop, too)