Percussionist Kris Vanderstraeten is one of the unsung heroes of Belgian free improvisation. Since the seventies, he has been experimenting with his unique set-up and different collaborations: the trio Sureau, a duo with Timo Van Luijk, several performances/recordings with young experimentalists. Trommels!, the second release by DROPA DISC, is also Vanderstraeten’s second solo album. It lures the listener into a universe without rules, a place where intuition and imagination decide what happens. Vanderstraeten does not play by the rules, he pushes them to the max. His drum kit isn’t just an instrument: it becomes a sound generator to explore the maximal potential of texture, dynamics and space.
Dropa Disc #002
LP edition of 300
Kris Vanderstraeten: Percussion, Snares & Objects
Recorded live at Zuiderpershuis for the Oorstof series, organized by Sound in Motion/Oorstof, 23 November 2014 Recorded, mixed and mastered by: Michael W. Huon, Brussels, 2016
Foto back: Daniël Van Acker
Foto front: Looking for oil in the southern marshes (L’Irak En Images- 1958)
Cover lay-out: Gerard Herman & Kris Vanderstraeten
Thanks to: Koen, Christel, Gerard, Daniël en Ivo
Extended text by Guy Peters (Enola Magazine, Gonzo Circus, Cadence … ):
At one point in the sixties, the notion of what a drummer could do, or was supposed to do, changed in the margins of jazz. Percussionists used to be the rhythm anchors, the masters of time-keeping, but then some of them set out to reshape the role of the drummer in a performing unit. It led to a more egalitarian balance between musicians. If you listen to classic recordings by drummers like Sunny Murray and Milford Graves, there’s nothing that really helps you to snap those fingers or bob those heads in unison, even though they (and others, like Rashied Ali and Andrew Cyrille) often kept a pulse hidden below the surface.
And the Europeans? They took it even further, often dismantling the last remains of African trance, turning to abstraction. Pioneers like Sven-Åke Johansson, Günter ‘Baby’ Sommer and Han Bennink created a new percussion language. Especially in the UK there was a wave of drummers – John Stephens, Tony Oxley, Eddie Prévost, Paul Lytton – that bridged the gap between free improvisation and sound art.
Enter Belgian drummer/percussionist Kris Vanderstraeten, who reportedly fell under the spell of free music after witnessing a performance by the legendary trio of Peter Brötzmann, Fred Van Hove and Han Bennink. Since then, he has been experimenting with his self-built drum kit in different surroundings. There is the trio of Sureau (with Jean Demey and Jean-Michel Van Schouwburg), there were collaborations with musicians as diverse as Sabu Toyozumi, John Russell and Timo van Luijck, and in the past few years, he has performed and/or recorded with quite a few younger experimentalists (Christophe Albertijn, Sandrine Verstraete, Gino Coomans, Gerard Herman,…).
The ‘liberation’ of the drummer also led to the solo performance. Since a drummer was not just at the service of a more important/dominant leader, he could also display a personal sound world. Trommels! is Vanderstraeten’s second solo album, after his 2012 solo debut on Ultra Eczema. Here he is in the middle of his comfort zone: with a drum kit that not only includes his own collection of toms and cymbals, but a whole array of objects. Pieces of wood, metal, plastic, toys, kitchen utensils. It’s all possible and used to create a sound world of endless possibilities.
A bit like Paul Lytton, Vanderstraeten builds a trip, a transformation that almost functions as a microscope for sound, and the result has nothing to do with swing, repetition or steady rhythms, but with texture, dynamics and space. Don’t look for that rhythm, that inner metronome. Instead, let yourself be transported by this musician who uses the drum kit as a sound generator, a platform for intuition and imagination, with rustling, throbbing, sighing, creaking, stuttering exclamations constantly triggering new trajectories.
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