Saturday, September 30, 2006

Octurn - 01/09/2006@CC de Meent, Alsemberg

Bo Van Der Werf - bs
Magic Malik - fl
Guillaume Orti - as
Laurent Blondiau - tp
Jozef Dumoulin - kb
Fabian Fiorini - p
Jean-Luc Lehr - el b
Chander Sardjoe - d
Gilberto Nuno - laptop

The meeting between baritone saxophonist Bo Van Der Werf and flutist "Magic" Malik Mezzadri has become an important turning point for Bo's Octurn, as Malik has gone from being a guest on their latest album, 21 emanations, to the ensemble's principal composer. This was the third time I'd seen this line-up this year and Malik's presence has brought a softer and more accessible feel, though the music has lost none of its formal complexity: Malik spent several minutes explaining the rhythmic and harmonic patterns one composition was based on, ending with "and with all that, we made rock 'n' roll."

Malik combines serious and frivolous sides excellently. One composition welded together the ultra-modern elements with medieval polyphony, while the concert ended with a joyous, relatively straight-forward and un-selfconcious mazurka (of the Carribbean, not Polish, variety). As a player, he's instantly recognisable, because of his instrument of course, but especially thanks to his homemade harmonic system. I don't know its details, but it's what's most distinctive about him.

This was actually the first day of a two-day recording session with a small audience. Unfortunately, I couldn't make it to the second day. The instruments were set up in a wide circle and the audience in an even wider circle around it. We were invited to feel free to change seats between songs, but getting a good balance between instruments was difficult: at one point, I was overwhelmed by the piano, of all instruments! So I'm curious to hear what the recording sounds like.

The first composition was dreamy and ambient, with a lot of free-flowing subterranean activity, the highlight of which was a musicbox-like piano-Fender Rhodes duet. The whole first set was relatively subdued, perhaps overly so. Still, as one of Bo's solos showed, quietness is in itself rather attractive, especially when it's a collectively-played, slightly eery kind of quietness.

Excellent contributions came from all involved. Two things in particular contributed to the overall mood. Chander Sardjoe would vary dynamics within a single phrase, for example landing very softly on the crash cymbal after a louder fill. A bunch of little details like that added depth to the music. Gilberto Nuno produced translucent textures which sparkled like light playing on melting icicles, while also discretely sampling the instrumentalists in real-time.

I guess the album should be coming out some time next year. Octurn + Malik will be at London's Vortex on December 1st.