Brzzvll ‘Waiho’ LP/CD/DIG (Sdban Ultra) 3/5

Ghent based indie label, Sdban, have made reputation for themselves as a superior producer of compilations on various aspects of the Belgian music scene. However, they are now venturing into more contemporary beats with a new group to these ears, though this is in fact their seventh studio album. Brzzvll are a seven piece band whose influences veer towards the darker side of jazz-fusion with a grittier funk edge in the Headhunters meets mid-1970s Miles Davis vein. A brooding atmosphere permeates the entire album and they follow on in the historical footsteps of Marc Moulin and group Placebo whose 1970’s recordings have been re-discovered by a new and wider audience.

While the group are not that intent on extended improvisation, which may be a drawback for some, they do succeed in laying down heavy bass lines over shifting drum beats, with repetitive motifs, and collective and individual horn work. This is then added to psychedelic guitar and keyboards, and it all comes together beautifully on ‘Wizzly Whop’. Hints of early 1970’s Santana circa ‘Caravanserai’ can be heard in the eerie sound effected intro to ‘Andromeda’, and the shuffling drum pattern give this a more modern twist even if the bass is straight out of the 1970’s. Plucked bass strings à la Jaco Pastorius are prominent on ‘Mantra’, which is notable for its extensive use of sound effects and with a distant flute and soprano saxophone. In live performance, Brzzvll have share the stage with some impressive company ranging from Marcus Miller to the Neville Brothers, and with the excellent British singer, Alice Russell, also in attendance. A pretty melody, conveyed by the medium of synthesizer, dominates ‘Mighty Mylou’. Perhaps deliberately, the sound quality is at times lo-fi and slightly blurred on ‘De Vlijtige Kip’, though the overall quality is still high. The band can be credited for their quality of the compositions and ensuring a balance between virtuosity and danceable groove with memorable hooks.

This is a musical journey into the darker side of 1970’s jazz with a strong funk-tinged bass and drum, and as such can be recommended to those searching for less obvious jazz oriented grooves.

Tim Stenhouse