Is there such a thing as emo jazz? If not, then Ruben Machtelinckx's quartet has produced a new genre of creative and improvised music. We're not talking screaming post-punk guitars. Porous Structures is an acoustic affair that relies on delicate and sparse sounds. And maybe, just maybe, it's what the world needs now.
Machtelinckx is a Belgian composer and guitarist. Here he performs on steel-string guitar, but can be heard elsewhere on banjo, electric guitar, baritone guitar, and electronics. The acoustic element is paramount here with fellow countryman Bert Cools, also on steel-string guitar, acting as a crucial confederate. The quartet is rounded out by bass clarinetist (and musician deserving greater attention) Joachim Badenhorst and percussionist Toma Gouband (Evan Parker).
Of the eight tracks, half are Machtelinckx compositions and half conjured by instant composing. The composed pieces, "Structure 1, 3, 4 & 6," have an organizing principal. As a hallmark of a disciplined ensemble, so do the improvised tracks. Opening with "Structure 3," a right-channel guitar is plucked and before the note decays a corresponding left-channel guitar answers. Cools and Machtelinckx trade off until Badenhorst blows lazy warm lines and Gouband strikes objects and scrapes cymbals. Each musical gesture is allowed the space to decay, adding to the music's stark atmosphere. The improvised pieces give the impression that they are field recordings, or at least we listeners are eavesdropping on some intimate occasion. This effect is accomplished by Badenhorst and Goubard moving around the recording space. When Badenhorst sings wordless vocals on several tracks he sounds not unlike Jon Hassell's trumpet. The acoustic format in which these three chose to record adds a warmth and emotional stability which balances the fragility of the performance. This music may be the acoustic equivalent to Hassell's Fourth World concepts.