Flat Earth Society – 13 (2013)
Ah, Belgium; the country that’s famous for its fries, chocolate, waffles, beer, Tin Tin, functioning anarchy and Vinkensport. And also Flat Earth Society! FES are a jazz big band formed in 1997, 1998 or 1999 (dependent on source) by Peter Vermeersch, producer of dEUS’s first album, and they number about 15 persons.
FES first entered my world due to their association with Mike Patton, and release of album ISMS (2005), a compilation of previous work released through Patton’s Ipecac record label. At that time, FES joined the tour as a support act for Patton’s avant-metal band Fantômas along with glitch-maester Kid606, which is when I first saw them live. The combination in a night of jazz, glitch and avant-metal was one to cherish; and, although, on paper, it might seem out of place to have a big band alongside these avant garde musics, FES’s brand of jazz is by no means straightforward, often eclectic, building on a HaFaBra (harmony, fanfare, brassband) sound, with creativity in abundance and with twists and turns along the way.
13 is a great example of why I hold FES in high regard. The tracks are difficult to describe, as they form musical adventures of their own. The album is fairly reminiscent of a soundtrack, so evocative are the tracks. There is a certain jazz noir flavour to a number of these tracks, and although there is a certain cliche inherent in this style of music, it is embraced rather than shunned by FES, as the story of dreaming train traveler is told in a gumshoe style on Patsy, or with the creeping bassline of Six Pine Trees. Other times, the music is playful, toying with our expectations (as all good jazz music should), as on Betwixt & Between, with its polyrhythms , or Stoptime Rag, with its Shave-And-A-Haircut-style call and responses. Raincheck is an intense journey, and flys FES’s avant garde flag, as drone gives way to driving and riotious jazz, and beyond.
Overall, a great album for fans of Flat Earth Society and newcomers alike. One needn’t be a fan of jazz to appreciate the music that Flat Earth Society make, and the madcap nature only adds to the appeal, without being too much for those who prefer structure.
Favourite tracks: Sneak Attack Of The Sponges, Six Pine Trees, Betwixt & Between
Spotify link: Flat Earth Society – 13 (The most Unreliable Music Since 1999)