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Silent Songs: Introducing Ruben Machtelinckx

Jakob Baekgaard By

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The easiest way to impress as a musician is to play loud and fast, but it is not necessarily the most emotionally engaging way of playing music. Instead, some of the best music creates a quiet room that it is possible to inhabit for the listener and such a space has become necessary in a time where things move much too fast and the virtue of contemplation is threatened.

In that sense, Belgian guitarist Ruben Machtelinckx comes as a breath of fresh air. His music is not smart, fast or filled with constant surprises, but consists of delicate narratives in sound where different textures and moods are explored through seemingly simple melodies that develop over time.

Machtelinckx/Jensson/Badenhorst/Wouters
Faerge
El Negocito Records
2013

Faerge is an album from 2013 and introduces a constellation with Machtelinckx, fellow guitarist Hilmar Jensson, bassist Nathan Wouters and saxophonist Joachim Badenhorst. Together they play a brand of lyrical chamber jazz where the absence of drums adds extra room for the exploration of melodic motifs. The guitars of Machtelinckx and Jensson intertwine and break away from each other. Gentle layers of distortion are occasionally added like a distant echo from a foreign shore and Badenhorst's horn blows with cool longing and forms singular shapes that become part of the arabesque compositions.

Wouters is the man that keeps it all together, but his bass is not only the pulse that flows underneath it all, but it also resurfaces as a solo instrument. However, this is not really an album based on solos in the traditional sense, but rather a kind of collective improvisation. The playing of Machtelinckx and Jensson is somewhat reminiscent of the empathic understanding between guitarists Bill Frisell and Jakob Bro and those enamored with the Danish guitarist's aesthetic will appreciate the slow sophistication of this record.

Machtelinckx/Jensson/Badenhorst/Wouters
Flock
El Negocito Records
2014

The quartet of Machtelinckx, Jensson, Wouters and Badenhorst returns on Flock. The album begins with the warm finger picking of Machtelinckx and Jensson on the title track where Badenhorst's breezy horn once again sings in the wind.

"Peterson" underlines the group's ability to construct a memorable melody while "Cumulus" begins with Wouters and Badenhorst in tandem as Machtelinckx and Jensson gradually enter and finally unfold a complex wall of sound with echoing overtones and distortion.

While Flock possesses the same fragile beauty as its predecessor, the difference lies in the use of contrasts. Whereas Faerge was painted with pastel colors, Flock is a bit more expressionistic. A case in point is "McMurdo" where the understated playing of a banjo is set against dramatic bursts of distorted guitar.

Dramatic effects aside, Flock is still a lyrical album with plenty of delicate melodies. It once again shows the group's ability to create a cinematic universe that is entirely its own.

Linus
Linus + Skarbø / Leroux
El Negocito Records
2015

Linus is another fine project from Machtelinckx and finds him in the company of saxophonist Thomas Jillings, who also plays synthesizers. On the album, Linus + Skarbø / Leroux, they are joined by guitarist Frederik Leroux and drummer and organist Oyvind Skarbo.

Together the four musicians create music that is atmospheric and intimate. The brief opener, "Vaag," introduces some rusty blues figures and spacy background sounds while "Down" shuffles along with drums, banjos and Jillings' hoarse saxophone. However, Jillings can also play with a seductive and gently whispering sound on "Finco" where Skarbø's shuffling drum playing once again drives the rhythm forward slowly.

The album is carried by the acoustic sounds of guitars and banjos and the hushed dialogue between instruments. Rather than playing loud rock music, Machtelinckx and his fellow musicians play silent songs that conjure emotional landscapes with endless horizons.


Tracks and Personnel

Faerge

Tracks: Ladakh; Hymne; Louisiana; Früh Stuk; Almost Gypsy; Faerge; Danish Funeral; It Could Be Beautiful; Prayer; Zeiten, Heuvels.

Personnel: Ruben Machtelinckx: guitar; Hilmar Jensson: guitar; Joachim Badenhorst: saxophone and clarinet; Nathan Wouters: double bass.

Flock

Tracks: Flock; Peterson; McMurdo; The Hunter; Cumulus; Loos; Mr. Maurin; Gaap.

Personnel: Ruben Machtelinckx: guitar, baritone guitar, banjo; Hilmar Jensson: guitar; Joachim Badenhorst: saxophone and clarinet; Nathan Wouters: double bass.

Linus + Skarbø / Leroux

Tracks: Vaag; Down; Finco; Porch; Vlaag; Woodstock; LaBœuf; Sketch; Vraag.

Personnel: Ruben Machtelinckx: guitar, acoustic baritone guitar; Thomas Jillings: tenor & C-melody saxophone, alto clarinet, synthesizers; Frederik Leroux: banjo, guitar, baritone guitar; Øyvind Skarbø: drums, Hammond organ.

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