Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Octurn - 27/09/2007@Jazz Station, Bruxelles

Octurn (myspace | website)
Bo Van Der Werf - bs
Magic Malik - fl, voc
Guillaume Orti - as
Laurent Blondiau - tp, flh
Nelson Veras - g
Fabian Fiorini - p
Jozef Dumoulin - Fender Rhodes
Jean-Luc Lehr - el b
Chander Sardjoe - d

Of late, I've been listening a lot to a very rough draft of Octurn's next album, their first live one (I was at one of the recording sessions). It's very amorphous structure-wise, with lots of texturally-oriented interludes, and only a few moments where the band's full forces flex their muscle in collective improvisation or uplifting rhythmic or melodic riff. It is totally unlike their previous (and still fairly recent) North Country Suite, a gorgeously melodic work written by Pierre Van Dormael (who, in the liner notes, thanked Bob Dylan, naturally, but also Nicole Kidman, inexplicably), that could be seen as a sequel to the latter's masterful Vivaces from 2001.

A year after the upcoming album was recorded, things have changed substantially, and generally for the better. Without losing the gentle, soft-focus feel Magic Malik has brought to the band, the contours have grown sharper, more readable, even as interpretative freedom has grown freer. This is quite a feat: the last time I saw Octurn, individual freedom occasionally led to collective chaos, ora too-great density of information. This time the assemblage was carefully grounded, without being too constrained. These clearer structures even lent the music an unusually proggy feel, as when a pastoral tableau was stomped upon by interjections of a pounding one-note tattoo. A meeting-ground was eventually found as the pastoral melody crescendoed and the riff decided to follow the contour of the chords. Not that things have become simple: even when Chander Sardjoe elicits foot-tapping, it can be difficult to get any idea of where the 1 might be.

By doing less, complexity communicated outwardly more clearly, reflecting the better internal communication enabled by an unorthodox stage configuration: Fabian Fiorini, Jean-Luc Lehr and Sardjoe occupied the Jazz Station's small stage, while the rest of the band fanned out in an inwards-facing semi-circle. They took up a third of the club's floor space, giving rise to the unusual sight of patrons and musicians facing in the same direction, looking at an empty space.

I increasingly look forward to Guillaume Orti's contributions. It is unsurprising that he should feel at home in Octurn, since it has much in common with Kartet, a long-running band that includes Sardjoe and Benoît Delbecq. His clear and bright tone almost obscures his radical phraseology: its linearity and clear articulation give it something of a '00s bop aura, but it is tied into ferociously unpredictable knots. And when he cut loose on the anthemic, drum 'n' bass-driven "Flash," avant-jazz was reunited with gritty drive.