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LABtrio: Nature City

Henning Bolte By

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When you consider the ages of the musicians of this trio from Belgium (26, 28 and 30 years) you notice it is a young group. When you take into account the decade these three musicians, bassist Anneleen Boehme, drummer Lander Gyselinck and pianist Bram De Looze, have been working together, you can only come to the conclusion that it is a thoroughly matured unit. On its appearance at the 2014 edition of the European 12 Points Festival in Umeå, Sweden, I wrote in my All About Jazz report: "The LABtrio (...) took off to a new shore of trioism, inducing a jaw-dropping, high level of musical experience through their miraculous interplay of characteristics including an amazing, mutual musical sensibility and agility, deep in-the-moment playing and delicate as well as thrilling timing, effortless execution and the sheer joy of performing. It all led to a great sound and gripping, infectious dynamics that rose, unfettered, to the apogee of the night."

LABtrio is a strong unit on the firm and vivid Belgian scene. Its members are involved in a couple of other remarkable enterprises worth checking out. After its last album The Howls Are Not What They Seem with Michael Attias (saxophone) and Chris Hoffman (cello) guesting, this new album shows the unit has further developed its very own non-linear progression, thereby uniting manifold heterogeneous parts and particles. Motifs disappear in mysterious ways and re-emerge, surfacing in unexpected forms at unforeseen moments. It is a continuing playful happening where motifs go hazy, get out of sight, disappear and re-enter in mutated forms. It moves on the spot and then—unforeseen again—it all of a sudden accelerates, runs into turbulences and crumbles. The whole and its parts are approached from ever changing, multiple perspectives. All bedded in a solid dynamic rhythmic outline keeping it together, it moves forward elegantly.

This way of working and accomplishing such strong and convincing outcomes requires more than musicians merely being on the same wavelength. They need a close understanding of the deep structure of the music and how the subterranean network with its knots works. They also need a quick grasp on what's going on and how to navigate in and through the actual (under)currents. The more it is used the stronger and richer the connections become and the music can develop and grow.

The LABtrio is an astonishing and happy case of musical affinity and kinship. In their development these three musicians have kept their primal playfulness. What sometimes seems a kind of hide and seek game is actually steered by strong compositional stepping-stones that allow to move along surprising and sophisticated passages, expansions, contractions and condensations. What the trio does, could also be considered as a sophisticated collage technique without perceivable stitches and bulges.

Five of the nine pieces are collective pieces, three are by Lander Gyselink and one piece by Bram de Looze. It starts with the slowly rising "Elevator." It is a piece that works a bit like Jobim's "One Note Samba" but is much more protracted, and terminates in a strong cascading stream. Then the trio goes Johan Sebastian's Nr. 15 of his "Goldberg Variations." It has been done more, but this is a real Hussar exploit with two amazingly independent piano hands and elegantly and forcefully bouncing cross rhythms. "Lumen" is a wandering-about balladesque piece leading into de Looze's delicate and superb "Ihor" (the Flemish pronunciation of 'Igor'), flitting about like a will-o'-the-wisp. Extinguishing and flaring up it moves in unpredictable ways like a stream of water on dry sand. The next piece has this obscuring mechanics—kind of trademark—too. The trio is playing its own David Lynch like game with the fugue form when working on Johan Sebastian's "Prelude and Fugue in B Minor." Here it shortly surfaces, in French chanson mode even (at least that of chansonnière Barbara). "Inside Now" has a special by way of hint beauty. Its unrevealingness makes up the charm of the piece. The underlying or implicated song can be heard (and played) in a lot of ways. By its non-linear approach LABtrio avoids the dulling effect of piano trios thereby gaining a unique quality. The final piece, "Amnesiac," comes from a dark side and all of a sudden slides into ambiguously flickering lights. It seems just the beginning of a much longer trance passage into unknown realms.

Track Listing: Elevator; Variation 15; Lumen; Ihor; Fugue; Inside Now; Mental Floss; Happy Famous Artists; Amnesiac

Personnel: Anneleen Boehme: double bass; Lander Gyselinck: drums; Bram de Looze: piano, fender rhodes

Title: Nature City | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: OutNote Records

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