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Friday, August 11, 2023

The Green Mean Machine – The Engine (Independent, 2023)

By Matty Bannond

Ghent is a good-time town where the beer is potent and the candy is shaped like a human nose. In 2019, four sons of this city started making improvised music together. Now their thirty-minute debut EP is offering listeners a good time, for a short time. A fun-and-frolics spirit oozes from each of the five tracks on The Engine like raspberry syrup bursting through the purple-sugar crust of a cuberdon.

Belgian quartet The Green Mean Machine features Werend Van Den Bossche on alto saxophone and Warre Van de Putte on tenor, with Zjef Van Steenbergen on double bass and Marcos Della Rocha operating the drumkit. They scamper across loose compositions with big spaces for leeway and liberties. The album mixes classical and folk vocabularies with elements from jazz and rock.

‘Omèr’ is the album’s only track written by Van de Putte. Saxes welcome the listener with fluttering long-note phrases before a funky bassline and dancey drumbeat gatecrash the party. Late in the piece, soft and scurrying etude-like phrases open up a muted moment of sleek improvised interactions. It feels like a pinkie-promise for happy feet and hot foreheads at the group’s live shows.

All four other tracks on the record were composed by Werend Van Den Bossche. ‘Kinderliedje’ makes a loud, Ayler-ish start. Percussion launches a breathtaking volley of firecrackers and pop rockets throughout. The meanest machinery is found on ‘Mutamal’, with its rocky beat revving and its temperature rising before sweet-sad saxophones cool things down and bring the album to a halt.

The Engine leaves listeners with a delicious aftertaste of irony, high jinks and good cheer. It’s a debut release characterized by playfulness and power, with free improvisation never far from the surface. Like the nose-shaped candies from The Green Mean Machine’s home city, it offers a good time for a short time. Pop it in. Take a bite. You just might like it.

The album is available for streaming and digital download here .