French bassist Sylvain Didou
has a fondness for choosing misleading album titles. His previous outing with his drone/noise group, Derby Derby, was entitled Love Dance
(Ormo Records, 2017), while his current release, with his band The Wøøøh, is the similarly facetious Music for Weddings and Funerals
. Far from ceremonial, mournful or celebratory in any conventional sense, this is music designed to get under your skin, with trance-like aspects that build in inexorable, sometimes disturbing ways.
The Wøøøh's previous album, Souvenirs, Souvenirs
(Ormo Music) was released in 2014. There seems to be a clear development in vision between the two albums; whereas the debut relied on shorter, mostly structured pieces in an avant-rock/jazz vein, this record involves two lengthy pieces that seem to be more informed by the kind of work Didou has done with Derby, Derby. Rather than anything resembling traditional structures or identifiable melodic motifs, the music depends for its impact on the accrual of dynamic energy and subtly repeating sound fragments, with a heavy emphasis on abstraction and texture.
It is a live recording, but the crowd isn't audible, giving the music an in-studio feel. Also contributing to that impression is the slow, patient development of each piece. There is no resorting to audience-pleasing techniques here; these guys let the music unfold according to its own logic, irrespective of concerns over accessibility or how "listener-friendly" it might be. Accordingly, the first piece, "Wedding," achieves a profoundly non-romantic drone via a repeating phrase from tenor saxophonist Henrik Pultz Melbye
and a steady tone from Didou; gradually guitarist Lars bech Pilgaards Slowburn
and drummer Rune Lohse enter the mix, and the music begins its steady, unsettling accumulation of momentum and force, culminating in a fearsome barrage before finally receding at the end, with Melbye helping to release the tension by modifying his phrasings to incorporate lighter, even somewhat ethereal sounds.
The second piece, "Funeral," is very different, with a less deterministic feel and more space available for spontaneity. It also involves more rhythmic dynamism, with a fractured rock-inflected beat from Lohse and jagged shards from Pilgaard giving a brief nod to the group's earlier rock-jazz style, and with Melbye in an especially unrestrained mode, various honks and bleats adding to the aural chaos before finally settling into a steady, relentless pounding rhythm more in keeping with the drone-based tendencies of the group. At over twenty minutes in length, it is a substantial improvisation, even more impressive than "Wedding" as a result of its various modulations, not the least of which is a quieter, open section that veers toward a more abstract space, giving the music a bit more room to breathe.
A release that reveals a group continuing to hone its collective sound in intriguing ways, Didou and company have made an effective statement hereeven if listeners seeking serious options for wedding or funereal music will probably want to consider other possibilities first.
Henrik Pultz Melbye: tenor saxophone; Lars Bech Pilgaard: guitar; Sylvain Didou: double bass; Rune Lohse: drums.