Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Skakk Trio@woutwalt - 27/11/2006, Brussels

Skakk Trio (website | MySpace)
Eric km Clark - vln
Joachim Badenhorst - cl, bcl, ts
Juhani Silvola - g, elec

This fantastic concert confirmed everything I suspected after immensely enjoying the Rawfishboys album (MySpace | previous post): Joachim Badenhorst has a great ability to bring together sweet and even heart-breaking melodies, linear and ambient improvisation, noise and various flavours of classical music. I get the feeling that Skakk Trio is probably equivalent to the "composers and their bands make music for the masses" and "not your grandfather's string quartet" movement that I've read about. You know, classical music that doesn't feel distant.

joachim and nico, a duo of their own

The first piece was essentially one long crescendo. It started from the silence of unpitched air and soundless bowing (Juhani Silvola bowed his guitar at least as much as he plucked it or manipulated loops and feedback by twiddling his pedal's knobs), plateaued at a kind of song by avant-garde whales and climaxed in a wall of sound. Not a loud one (the room would have been way too small for that), so all the textural details could be heard. At that time, Joachim was on tenor and his grainy, jazz-derived free-textural playing resembled what Ellery Eskelin might do in a similar situation.

The second composition started with a tender, Rawfishboys-style melody, but written with a string quartet's interweaving lines. The same melody returned after a stretch of quiet collective improvisation, but with wonky (sorry, microtonal) intonation. Maybe it's been done to death elsewhere, but I found the contrast between the two versions riveting (along with the simple clash of microtones, of course). After a harsher duet pitching the violin against noisy guitar and an expressive, slur-filled clarinet solo, the same melody, or a similar one, came back in a folksy guise, as the previously battling string instruments united for propulsive plucks on the off-beats.

If you were to guess that "a clarinetist smooching into his instrument's body after having removed its mouthpiece over blippy textures that could have been lifted from an old video game" described a micro-house track rather than classical music, you'd be right. Still, when Clark and Badenhorst intoned a more traditional melody after the "electronica" stuff, Silvola provided short, fading swells much like a string section would.

yes, the beer was free

The last composition was Silvola's "Around," which you can hear on the band's MySpace (but the songs there are far below the quality of what I heard live). It moved from unhurried floating to a lovely waltz in which violin and clarinet fluttered around the guitar comping, with a traditional, hollow sound, for once.

They're playing with Han Bennink tomorrow (they met him at Banff last year, as did the trio's members), which I have some difficulty imagining. It is safe to bet, however, that Bennink has more imagination than I do.

wout and walt, our gracious hosts

Enjoyment was enhanced by the venue (not so much by the free beer - which was Jupiler, anyway - as I was driving). woutwalt is a small, very-high-ceilinged workshop in which two young graphic designers (guess their names) work, making t-shirts and posters and things. There were maybe a dozen audience members, but that's pretty much all the room could fit, so it was good. I felt like I earned a whole bunch of hipness points by attending a concert in an "alternative" "space," in a rundown-therefore-affordable-for-artists-despite-being-in-city-centre street, no less.

Celebrity attendees: Benoist Eil, Manolo Cabras, Eve Beuvens, Anu Junnonen...