Belgian guitarist Dirk Serries expanded his sonic art in recent years and slowly integrated into his well-crafted ambient textures strategies taken from free-improvisation. These four new releases, only a few examples of his highly prolific output in recent years, sketch the arresting manner of his rich and expansive experience transformed into different modes of immediate, raw interplay.
By Eyal Hareuveni
By Eyal Hareuveni
John Dikeman /Steve Noble / Dirk Serries - Obscure Fluctuations (Trost, 2015) ***½*
This trio challenges Serries to face the fiery free jazz improvisation mode of the Peter Brötzmann school. American, Amsterdam-based powerhouse sax player John Dikeman, known for his groups Cactus Truck and Universal Indians, can blow as hard and wild as Brötzmann, but has an open attitude that is genre-blind. British master drummer Steve Noble has performed and recorded with Brötzmann (I Am Where You Are, Trost, 2013), as well with other innovative improvisers as Derek Bailey, Evan Parker and Joe McPhee. Serries performed and recorded with Dikeman in the last year (as a duo on the vinyl-only Cult Exposure, New Wave of Jazz, 2015, and on other live ad-hoc outfits), but it was the first time that he recorded with Noble. This new trio was recorded in studio on April 2015.
Dikeman and Noble set the intense, stormy atmosphere on the first piece, “From Assent to Refusal”, from its first seconds. Only after both slow down Serries integrates into the dense, fast interplay with distorted, thorny lines. Slowly he intensifies this mode of confrontational free improvisation, building again its voluminous climax, until it disintegrates again and now the trio unites again in a tight, rhythmic and fiery free jazz mode. Serries sets the contemplative course of the second piece, “The Heart Strips Bare”, with distant, ambient playing. Noble adds minimal touches on the cymbals that stress the ceremonial atmosphere, while Dikeman opts for gentle, long wails, but the minimalist, conversational tone is kept throughout it until a short eruptive coda.
Fantoom - Sluimer (A New Wave of Jazz, 2015) ****
Fantoom is a quartet that feature Serries, his wife, autodidact double bass player Martina Verhoeven (who is also a gifted photographer), drummer René Aquarius, and sax player Otto Kokke, both from the Dutch group Dead Neanderthals, with whom Serries played in their Endless Voids project on the 2014 edition of the Incubate festival in Tilburg, Netherlands. The quartet debut album, a limited-edition vinyl, is a free-improvisation that was recorded in studio in December 2014.
The quartet plays one piece, the 38-minutes “Sluimer”, that revolves around the buzzing bow drone work of Verhoeven and develops organically along this course. Serries minimalist, effects-laden and loops, Kokke sax shrieks shouts and Aquarius patient yet powerful pounding tension building enrich Verhoeven rough, possessed attack with layers of resonating textures. At times this piece sound close to the dramatic sonic rituals of Yodok III, another group of Serries, but the tone here is more dark and direct. “Sluimer” is a sound-poem that its hypnotic intensity is built slowly and methodically by this collective quartet until its inevitable massive, epic climax, and then Verhoeven changes the course and leads the quartet into a quieter, peaceful coda.
Dirk Serries/Martina Verhoeven/Colin Webster - Cinepalace (A New Wave of Jazz, 2015) ***½
Serries and his wife and double bass player Martina Verhoeven meet British tenor sax player Colin Webster, who also participated in the Dead Neanderthals’ Endless Voids, for a live improvisation, recorded at the DIY club Cinépalace in Kortrijk, Belgium in May 2015. A month earlier Serries performed with Webster in a quartet that was recorded as Live at Cafe Oto, and released on Webster’s Raw Tonk label.
This recording, another limited-edition vinyl, is a 45-minutes piece, titled after the club name. It highlights the highly individual voices of Serries, Verhoeven and Webster and their idiosyncratic improvisation strategies. It begins as an open-ended, quiet and abstract tone when all three searches for his own eccentric course. But patiently this kind of fragile, meditative interplay gels into a close and louder one, as the three still continue to explore their streams of ideas in delicate, parallel courses, occasionally unite for brief and more intense eruptive climaxes.
This duo unites Serries with experimentalist guitarist N, the moniker of Dortmund-based Hellmut Neidhardt. This improvised meeting present three effects-laden, multi-layered pieces, each is longer than the previous one. The atmosphere here on the first two pieces is reserved and slow, raw and noisy, as the two guitarists build nuanced, mysterious and dense, resonating drones.
These rich drones can be used as soundtracks for some science-fiction movies. The last one, the 21-minutes “N H D S III 25 2 14” is the most impressive one. It begins with fast, electric storms, that keeps moving in cyclical patterns, adding more and more disturbing colors and shades into the primal, fuzzy sounds, slowly structuring an intense, claustrophobic-apocalyptic atmosphere. Towards its end the storms suddenly decays into distant, quieter and quieter sound, marking an optimist, peaceful conclusion to this intense, noisy, journey.