Emil de Waal: Emil de Waal + (2005)
Emil de Waal + is another release from the "what is jazz?/is it jazz? category that has come my way recently, along with Mandarin Movie, Patina, and Dada Ear Ink. The common characteristics connecting them are the appearance of nonmusical sounds (electronica, including processed voice) and use of standard musical instruments in nonstandard ways. This release also adds rhythms that feel more like techno dance than anything else.
De Waal wanted to inhabit that space where jazz borders on modern dance music and use electronics as an instrument to be played from a previous recording (as a "backing ) or in the foreground, with the instrumentalists being the "backing. As with most jazz discs, what is heard is a snapshot of music in progress that can and will change with each iteration. As a drummer, de Waal has recorded a lot in Denmark and elsewhere, and he has composed and arranged for many different people.
The music itself has a flow and direction. The instruments that sound "normal have jazz characteristics, and there is a clear feel of improvisation when they appear. It is harder to tell when the electronica is improvised. "Ypkendanz Part 2 is quite beautiful, with free piano arpeggios leading to electronic keyboard sounds. It runs directly into "Ypkendanz Part 1, which ends with the germ of the sounds taken up by the former track. The bulk of the piece uses a simple melody spoke-sung and manipulated.
The tracks then move, with some exceptions more towards techno-dance rhythms and treatment. As de Waal related to me, "Struktur is "supposed to sound like live American R&B played by Scandinavians (which is a rather funny statement); "Bang is "intended to be classic '80s electro music played live ; and "Luth features "heavy early '90s sounding funk with a serious twist and a focus on the two keyboards' weird interplay. "Sirlion is a free electronic piece played on top of "DJ and guitar outtakes from 'Struktur,'" ending with heavily processed drums mixed in.
The exceptional tracks are "Johnstein, which centers on a simple and pretty hymn-like theme played on guitar, to which an increasingly complex background is added, ending with a free saxophone solo coming into the mix. "Tschak could almost come from a Beatles Magical Mystery Tour-era album, while "Katter is in "ragamuffin style reggae rhythm with another "Scandinavian folk melody sung by processed voice, which leads to an quite nice slide guitar solo.
Knowing the intent of creating a computer soloist that improvises (or not) as part of a "live group changes the way this release is perceived, since otherwise one might assume the electronica was just laid down and mixed in. De Waal might be on to something here, and I for one would be very interested in another effort using the same techniques but more in the jazz vein (whatever that means).
Track Listing: Ypkendanz Part 2 (4:56), Ypkendanz Part 1 (8:45), Struktur (10:16), Bang (4:45), Johnstein (9:02), Tschak (5:08), Sirlion (4:43), Katter (7:44), Luth (3:50).
Personnel: Emil de Waal: drums, vocals, guitar, laptop; Gustaf Ljunggren: many instruments; Soren Kjargaard: keyboards. Plus Erik Sanko: multi-instrumentalist; Marina Rosenfeld: art/noise-DJ); and Frederik Lundin (tenor sax and bass flute).