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Hardscore (Belgium) - 2004 - "Monkey Trial"
TRACK LIST: 1. Intro 2:29 2. Soundscape-1 1:55 3. Soundscape-2 3:30 4. Bound for a Braun 4:30 5. Soundscape-3 0:44 6. Hideaway 2:31 7. Soundscape-4 0:31 8. Buba Rebuffed 6:32 9. Soundscape-5 0:42 10. The Doubled G-force Chicken Mambo 4:07 11. Soundscape-6 1:41 12. A Beacon in the Sky 3:40 13. Soundscape-7 0:20 14. Pan the Satirist 5:20 15. Soundscape-8 0:39 16. Project Y 6:08 17. Soundscape-9 1:00 18. Carmine Inspiration 6:01 19. Soundscape-10 0:36 20. 13 Sec's of Bonobos Sex 5:49 21. Soundscape-11 0:21 22. Cold Man in the Forest 2:42 All tracks: by Nuyts. LINE-UP: Frank Nuyts - marimbas; backing vocals Frank Debruyne - saxophones; backing vocals Mai - lead vocals Iris De Blaere - pianos Jan De Smet - drums Maarten Standaert - basses With: Jan Dutnoy - organ Frederik Segers - guitar Produced by Segers & Nuyts. Engineered by Segers & B. Ostyn.
Prolusion. "Monkey Trial" marks my first acquaintance with the creation of Belgium's HARDSCORE, though this is the third album by them. The last name of (producer) Frederik Segers has immediately reminded me of Guy Segers of Univers Zero and Present fame, but I am not sure if there is any real connection between these people.
Synopsis. In fact, there are three additional tracks located at the very end of the CD. These are so-called remixes, shortened versions of tracks 20, 10, & 4 respectively. Each part of Soundscape has a very verbose sub-title, compiled from more than a dozen words, so I didn't put them in the track listing above, especially since most of those pieces are very short in duration. Almost all of them: tracks 2, 5 and all the further oddly numbered ones aren't soundscapes as such, as there is neither music nor even "sound design", and are only speech, voices, and natural sounds. (On Soundscape-9, I hear the toast "Your health!" spoken in accented Russian.) The only exception is Soundscape-2 (3), which has nothing to do with soundscapes as well. Like another instrumental piece Intro (1), it's of the same compositional and stylistic concept as the songs. Starting with the fourth track, these are located on all of the evenly numbered ones and are with lyrics (in English) that play an important role in this effort. In other words, "Monkey Trial" is a full-fledged concept album. The CD features about 55 minutes of real music, which is just gorgeous. One may discard my rapture for this album due to the inevitable inference of my having written so many highly positive reviews for this update. But that would be neglecting the considerable values of one of the very best releases of the year. A sextet of marimba, piano, saxophone, bass, drums, and vocals with an abundance of original and captivating ideas, Hardscore performs a fresh sounding, both intricate and beautiful music, which may at times evoke with the best of Happy The Man, Jesus Christ Superstar and Etron Fou Leloublan. The band presents a truly original, rather light and lively, RIO, which, thanks to the massive use of vocals (lead female and a mixed choir), and also the way they are delivered, is actually nothing else but an RIO Opera. This is an album of invigoratively imaginative themes inflected with well-developed subtlety and shade, combined with the harmonically sophisticated parts where there are more symphonic textures and are only occasional jazzy tendencies. Each of the songs is made up of a few different vocally instrumental parts and independent instrumental interludes, all going organically with a solid range of complementary musical ideas full of certitude and finesse. Sometimes quirky, but always intelligent and never losing sight of a melodic sensibility, the compositions are laced with original chord progressions and exciting dynamics. While the marimba player Frank Nuyts is credited as the author of the entire material, it's clear that each of the band members participated in the arrangement, offering equal quantities of fire and coloration to the overall effort. The band has created something magnificent, a thing of impressive compositional perfection and considerable stylistic awareness.
Conclusion. Well, Belgium is still at the helm of the RIO movement, especially regarding the most structured forms of the genre, and I am really delighted with the fact of how this country is rich in such talent. There is so much to like on Hardscore's "Monkey Trial", and the album takes just a couple of listens to begin absorbing all the fine detail. This is one of the most unique RIO-related works in my memory, though I am certain that the album will rejoice Art-Rock lovers, too, at least most of them. It will certainly stay on as one of my favorite >Top-20 albums of the year.
VM: August 29, 2004
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