This record is the tenth release by The Rempis Percussion Quartet, recorded during a 2019 European tour that celebrated their fifteenth anniversary as a working ensemble. Those are some pretty hefty milestones. So how do they push forward artistically with so much already under their belt? From what we hear on Sud Des Alpes, it’s all about digging deeper into the musical dilemmas they’ve been examining for years. These four improvisers continue to grind ideas and perspectives against one another, yielding an ever more refined version of their shared vision. This is patient work, done over a long period. In the rapidly shifting social media era, one whose gaze flickers back and forth like a cornered rat as it scans for the next big thing, this may seem archaic. So be it.
Listen to Flaten for example – one of the few bass players in the world with a sound and technique strong enough to drive, or contradict, a band this fiery when he chooses to. And he’s all about that grind. Notice how he sometimes deliberately pushes ahead, or pulls behind the drummers in a groove, or obstinately refuses to leave the beat as the others unravel around him into unmetered terrain. It’s this type of relentless questioning that keeps the band on its toes, as one member asks with a mischievous grin, “you sure about that?” And yet somehow they manage to hold the core together, these internal dialectics serving to ratchet up the tension and interest. The resolutions to these episodes coalesce like rays of sunshine pouring through the back end of a storm front. Check out the driving groove that closes out Evacuation, and the hollers from the live audience as the quartet slides into it.
Only a band with a history this long – that of a family – can get into some wrangling like this live onstage, and still produce something that’s both coherent and compelling. This is a straight up circus feat – a train engineer who reconstructs the locomotive as the train rockets down the line.
Unfortunately, the band wasn’t quite so lucky in their actual train travels on the day of this concert. The titles for these compositions come from their delayed arrival to Geneva that afternoon, since the train they were on somehow lost the use of its brakes. It came to a slow halt in the middle of the main line between Zurich and Geneva, blocking train travel in the country for several hours, to the embarrassed consternation of the entirety of the exquisitely punctual Swiss nation. When Rempis called the presenter to let him know they’d be quite late, he said in hushed disbelief “yes, there’s a train stuck on the track that’s blocking everything.” His tone made it clear that the nation’s gaze was fixed on its TV’s waiting for the latest updates to this calamity. Rempis replied “yes, we’re on it!”
Soon after, in a moment of absurdity that maybe only touring musicians could quite appreciate, Flaten was forced to carry his suitcase and enormous bass flight case up and down the stairs and through the narrow aisles in eight double decker train cars to reach the sole evacuation point at the far end of the train. The rest of the band didn't have it much better. Another episode of musical “Survivor,” all too familiar to musicians who travel for their work. The band then passed across a small platform to another train waiting on the opposite track, and continued on their way. Any relation to the music that took place that night? Could be.
1. There's A Jam On The Line 18:13
2. Theme De Yoyo / Evacuation 23:23
3. Late Arrival 11:41
Dave Rempis – alto/tenor saxophone
Ingebrigt Håker Flaten – bass
Tim Daisy – drums
Frank Rosaly – drums