Les Horribles Travailleurs – Late 1988​ -​Early 1989

11.3.22 by Jacob DeRaadt

These burst of rapid-fire tape collages from Dutch squatter Les Horribles Travailleurs have a succinctness and development in character of sound that inhabits sparse territories of ruptured tape heads and visceral editing. Created are unique intervals of cut-up, lo-for-tape sounds at the beginning of side A thar remind me of Etant Donnes. Full rapid-fire eye movement successions of squirrel song tape fluttering sounds that get submerged under total spaces of black. There’s an episodic treatment to the sounds and a stop, start, stop feel to any momentum that might develop when I start to recognize repeated sound world fragments reappearing ever so occasionally. Again, a black space underneath all of this warbling cut up physical tape noise that swallows it all. //End of first piece.

The second piece has an industrial percussion sample loop that builds in primitive release and intensity.  Very much a confusion of what is man made and what is field recordings here. A great quality to have in sound of confusion. 

Other pieces on this side have a very ghostly deserted feel to them, almost musically approaching ambient. Total confusion as to what instruments or devices produced these sounds. The tape obscures everything perfectly and binds them together in the muck, then certain elements will almost take a step forwards in the mix and change character in one aspect or another simultaneously. Somber and direct combinations of tonal fidelity close out side one, gutted fidelity adding to the compositions unique consciousnesses. 

Side two builds moods of grittiness and droning intensity in a way that makes it differ a bit from the approaches on first side. What sounds like hissing sewer gates begin to overlap with grinding mechanical dysfunction, things start to solidify into a noisy surge ending in a dying hiss. Then we’re back to the rapid-fire cut up. Harsh and banal moments juxtaposed and speed processing employed in full effect. Chopping rhythms cutting in and out of the mix, gurgling tape syrups groaning beneath sped up elements.

Consciousness disruption.

an Email from Chris Gibson of Buried in Slag and Debris, Oct 2021:

The project’s name is ‘Les Horribles Travailleurs’ or ‘les horribles travailleurs’ – French for ‘The horrible workers’, which is a term from one of ‘the letters of the visionary’, written during 1871 by Arthur Rimbaud.


‘late 1988 – early 1989’ is the name of the series of sound works.

Some notes:

‘late 1988 – early 1989’ – Les Horribles Travailleurs’

Selections from : ‘o/r/g/v/m/c-z – tape nr. 91’

Roughly this series is the result of two different forms of working with sound:

The collage\cup-up form and the more ‘musical’ form, but very reduced form of it, the music elements as rhythm and melody being almost drowned in its liquid state as pure sound.

The first form corresponds with the transformation of urban and industrial landscapes and architectural and mental constructions to raw material, basic states, elemental forces.

The second one corresponds with the inward view – a descent inside the body – with its pulsations, rhythms, cycles and silent mysteries. The dialogue with raw bodily materials and elemental natural phenomena as another way to reach a basic state.

These sound works are not the result of a concept – and are not created for an audiance, but were organised to function as poetic methods of research and trasformation:

“within this violent language, within this violation of language – a source was discovered”

(Les Horribles Travailleurs).

Les Horribles Travailleurs: sound project by Max Kuiper, The Netherlands.

Started with the purchase of a cassetterecorder and the recordings of the action of breaking glass, both on 15 january 1982.

Initially named ‘o/r/g/v/m/c-z’, later Les Horribles Travailleurs.

This series of works were recorded with a small number of cassetterecorders, a reel to reel machine and a simple sample keyboard, late 1988 – early 1989.

All sounds are from recordings made from 1982 to 1989: a variety of methods and sources were used: field recordings, concrete materials such as stone, glass, water, wind, metal objects, radio, television, record player, musical instruments, recordings in abandoned factories and houses, cellars, attics, empty rooms, wastelands.


Visual works: a combination of drawings, photos and writings made from 1978 on – and found images and words.

Drawings with ink, felt tip pen, spray paint.

Writings with typewriter, stamps, rub on letters, newspaper, letter templates.

Combinations and photos of broken vinyl record, knife, medical instruments made in 2021 by Max Kuiper