While Oliver Weindling's Babel label has recorded some of Britain's most lyrical and mellifluous artists, including vocalist Christine Tobin
, guitarist Phil Robson and the post-bop mutationist band Polar Bear, it has also, true to its name, championed some of the country's most iconoclastic noise-jazz outfits, notably Acoustic Ladyland
and Led Bib.
Leeds-based trioVD, though no stranger to gentle neo-ambient beauty, mostly inhabits the latter category, its six feet firmly planted in high-decibel thrash attacks combining the outer reaches of free improv with beats and ambiences borrowed from heavy rock. The magnificent Fill It Up With Ghosts is Babel's most outré high-energy release since Acoustic Ladyland's Camouflage (2003), and in trioVD the label has another band of massive potential, great swathes of which are already realized on this first album.
Formed in 2006, trioVD is guitarist Chris Sharkey, saxophonist Christophe de Bezenac and drummer Chris Bussey. All three musicians are closely associated with the Leeds Improvised Music Association, and have collectively worked with a varied range of artists including drummer Jack DeJohnette, saxophonist Ken Vandermark, poet/bandleader Henry Rollins, and the adventurous classical-contemporary ensemble, London Sinfonietta (an early adopter of the ECM label's rock, jazz and classical synthesist, Heiner Goebbels).
The trio are also active in metal rock. Sharkey, since 2009 simultaneously a member of Acoustic Ladyland, has worked with death metallers Bilbao Syndrome; Bussey and de Bezenac with Bilbao's close cousin Minghe Morte. De Bezenac is also involved with traditional and experimental gamelan groups.
TrioVD's diverse influences, and the virtuosic skills of its three player/composers, combine to create music of depth and, even at its most full-on, of subtlety and nuance. Whatever it is, Fill It Up With Ghosts is most assuredly not punk jazz. "Returns," "Rash" and "To Whom?" feature the band at its pile-driving, heavy lifting extreme. "Kesh" and "Sixes And Sevens" include extended passages of more pastoral, even limpid delicacy. The title track and "Cow Dun" are informed by the spikier end of modern gamelan music. All the tunes are meticulously arranged, with as much attention given to overdubs and textural layering as to the core "live" performances. At times, the resulting riot of sound begs the question: who is playing what? The question is soon forgotten, as the music takes hold.
TrioVD's name carries unfortunate resonances, but actually has more seemly roots. The group first played together, in 2006, on February 14Valentine's Day in Britain, when lovers exchange cards and flowersand the session was saved as "trioVD." Fill It Up With Ghosts is a gigantic bunch of flowers, some of them thorny, others picture postcard pretty, and an extraordinary debut.