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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Ifa Y Xango Tentet - Twice Left Handed \\ Shavings (El Negocito, 2015) ****

João Lobo, Sep Francois, Ruben Pensaert: Percussion and Drums
Seppe Gebruers: Electronic keyboards and live processing
Niels van Heertum, Filipe Nader, Viktor Perdieus: Woodwind and brass instruments
Bert Cools, Ruben Machtelinckx, Laurens Smet: Electric guitars, bass guitars and keyboards

All art is retrospective, insofar as past experience goes into the creation of it -Dan Morgenstern So the problem as always is finding the words to say something about the music. Sometimes it is easy, when the music is programmatic and the title tells us what it describes. Take The Sorcerer’s Apprentice by Dukas and it is not to hard to picture Mickey Mouse splitting the brooms and succumbing to the waterflow. Nothing wrong with this but usually the a priori goal doesn’t lead to the most exciting music. Titles can better be slapped upon a piece afterwards. What are we gonna call this ? No idea. Leave it at that. Let’s call this. So Ifa y Xango decided to call their record “twice left handed\\shavings”. I have no truck with that.

Song titles are Kamchatka, Gamma and that’s ok. It is the music that tells me something that can’t be put in words. I can give you something like: Great big hunks of sound are thrown around and gradually coalesce to arrive at a slowly pulsating giant mass of a peninsula, called Kamchatka. Lame. Seppe Gebruers describes in a recent interview what he calls absolute music. There is no frame of reference, there is no cut and dried schedule set up beforehand and fulfilled up to one’s best ability, so the critic can check the boxes afterwards and grade it with stars.

This music is something else. It is not music to understand. It doesn’t prescribe anything. It gives you auditory signals and you are free to follow. Or not. I follow. These guys don’t give us simple retrospective, they give us something way better. They offer themselves, full of the urgency of the here and now. And themselves they became through past experience, specifically through a vast array of available music, call it dubstep, call it musique concrete, call it electronic trance, call it what you will. “I try to master the two : control and the lack of it” is what Seppe says and he manages this quite well. So let’s have some facts: Ifa y Xango are a number of musicians based in Belgium and Brazil.

The group was founded in 2010 with all of the seven musicians in the band playing acoustic instruments and self- composed music at the time. Since releasing their debut album Abraham, which was elected as "Best debut album" by the New York City Jazz Record in 2013, they have expanded the band with three new members. The group is proud to present their upcoming second album “twice left handed \\ shavings”, inspired by the band's love for experimental electronic dance music, trance music and musique concrète on El Negocito Records. And let’s have an impression: Gamma starts way way back, nice unisono lines, slightly raffled at the edges. The ageless contemplative mood. Once again memories from many musics strive to attach to names and fail while the song transforms through a nervous DJ Shadow outburst into a shimmering battle between industrial noise and Hassell horns.

Does this tell you something? I hope not. The brain makes up a lot of this, even literally: it creates the missing harmonics here. The music is just there and wants you to be there too, without preconception. And quite soon there is the jazz face : As far as my own jazz face it goes/ –and don’t tell me you don’t have one –/it hasn’t changed that much/since its debut in 1957./It’s nothing special, easy enough to spot/in a corner of any club on any given night./You know it, – the reptilian squint,/lips pursed, jaw clenched tight,/and, most essential, the whole/head furiously, yet almost imperceptibly/nodding/in total and absolute agreement. - Billy Collins The flipside by the way will bring any house down. And up again. Absolute agreement indeed.