Le Picotement Au Main

Third release by Eclectic Maybe Band is Again Alors? (DISCUS MUSIC DISCUS 130CD) (with a title that may or may not be a reference to the famed Michel Portal 1970 jazz album on Futura Records). Once again it’s mostly the work of the indefatigable Belgian genius Guy Segers, who not only composed four of the eight tracks, he also did all the arrangements and mixing. His method this time has involved a careful direction and assembly of recordings, improvisation and live playing in the studio, with the multiple players sometimes building up the track by adding their parts in isolation.

Unlike previous item Reflection In A Moebius Ring Mirror there seem to be fewer samples and tape-loop moments on offer this time, but that’s not to say it’s been any less labour-intensive. The impression I have, perhaps incorrectly, is of Guy Segers staying awake for 25 hours a day as he scores his compositions, listens intently to hours of improvised music in the studio, directs musicians, adds overdubs, and then enjoys the dessert course as he settles down over his steam-driven editing device housed in Argonote, Brussels, only to surface after a solid five days of tape splicing. At one level, this workaholic approach may remind us of Frank Zappa (without the continual coffee and cigarette breaks), except that our man Segers seems to be less of a control-freak and much more open to the contributions of others. Speaking of which, he has the usual small army of skilled jazz and free rock players at his disposal, who I assume are continually sitting in waiting in an underground bunker like avant-garde firemen, until the Segers hot-line flares up and summons them to the next emergency. You can expect a very rich mix of chamber-rock quasi-jazz ensemble sounds on this dense record – woodwinds galore, electric guitars, keyboards, bass, brass, drumming…to say nothing of the virtual keyboard work of Segers himself.

The music itself can swing and sway a bit like creaky big-band jazz, as on ‘A Beast Trophy’, but with very tricky time signatures more akin to French prog rock from the 1970s; and it can also brood and fret over an elaborate series of ugly chords and unexpected changes, as on ‘Disquiet’ or ‘Tingling Skin’. Throughout, there’s a continual sense of anxiety and dread, but expressed musically like some form of dark science-fiction, a nastier version of Druillet’s Lone Sloane; this impression aligns quite nicely with the few records I’ve heard by Univers Zero, the 1970s-80s Belgian avant-rock group of which Segers was the bassist. He has evidently retained his “critical” edge and through his music continues to remind everyone in the world that we are surrounded by dark clouds, that all systems are corrupt and unmanageable, or that we’re living inside a volcano full of skulls of which the sheer walls are unclimbable. The impression is further confirmed by the dystopian sc-fi type paintings on the cover, executed by Silena. Fine work of uniquely constructed, rich, and darkly pessimistic fare; the label notes are keen to praise the way that Segers uses musical recordings as “raw material, sculpting them into finished pieces.” From 9th February 2022.

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