Brussels based trio Thunderblender release their debutant LP ‘Stillorgan’ on the Belgian label W.E.R.F. Records. Drawing on the mixture of heavy grooves and tender lyricism contained in their first EP ‘Last Minute Panic’ from 2017, the trio of Sam Comerford on Saxophone, Hendrik Lasure on piano, and Jens Bouttery simultaneously playing drums and bass synthesizer, this latest instalment sees them offer an intensely personal statement from bandleader and composer, Comerford. The album’s title ‘Stillorgan’ refers to a suburb of Dublin where Comerford grew up. The album art reflects the core themes of family life and love which is affectionately conveyed through its intimate imagery. Given their impressionistic and haunting quality, the imagery is both opaque, and a glaring confrontation with that lived reality.
Stillorgan’s opening number, ‘Lament’ offers melancholic atmospheres, spacious chords, dispersed percussion and damp, grizzly saxophone textures, counterposed by the slightly jarring effect of Lasure’s use of live sampling techniques. If ‘Lament’ offers a sense of contemplative flight, the LP’s single ‘Movin On’ brings the listener back to earth with its sense of urgency. Held together by Bouttery’s propulsive, syncopated groove, the track is driven forward by a lively conversation between Comerford’s escalating and sinuous saxophone articulations and Lasure’s measured piano chords. This dialogue is propelled onto different sonic planes through its continually evolving and restless structure. Following the earthy density of ‘Movin On!’, ‘Last Light Out’ oscillates into abstract speculative chaos. Reminiscent of Henry Threadgill’s admixture of contemporary classical and free jazz idioms, ‘Last Light Out’ offers a subtle dynamic between Bouttery’s cacophonous, dexterous grooves, Lasure’s complex chord progressions, and Comerford’s frenetic, yet agile tonal explorations. ‘Doubt’ shifts the gears once again by plunging the listener into an eerie, contemplative state.
‘Hope’ leaps from solemn reflection into buoyancy, where obtuse angular jabs propel the track along its zigzagging terrain: we are invited to a macabre carnival, a rhizomatic tap dance. ‘Arrival’ picks up the pieces from the carnage of ‘Hope’ by offering shimmering lyrical sound passages. Like Samuel Beckett famously said of his play Not I, that the piece should “work on the nerves of the audience, not its intellect,” Thunderblender’s ‘Panic Redux’ operates as its sonic equivalent, hammering out electrifying doses of distilled sound clusters. ‘Lights Out’ brings to the surface many of the melancholic themes which had been lurking throughout the LP into sharp relief with a sparse compositional language, which is at once haunting and densely layered.
Text by Samuel O'Connor Perks
released September 11, 2020
Hendrik Lasure: piano & effects
Jens Bouttery: drums & bass synth
Sam Comerford: tenor & bass saxophone, composition
Recorded and mixed at La Patrie (Gent, Belgium) in February 2019 and 2020 by Koen Gisen.
Mastered by Rashad Becker at clunk.
Sleeve design by Jelle Martens
Cover Photo of Will and Sam Comerford by Susan Keyes
Executive Producer: Benny Claeysier for KAAP / W.E.R.F. records
Manufactured and distributed by N.E.W.S. distribution
(P) + (C) 2020
This is boundary-pushing jazz. An album tending toward exploratory cadences and rasp dissonance with a gift for evocative images. Energy is palpable throughout the album’s 9 tracks and it is impossible to not appreciate the band's effortless proficiency to create in the moment. If you like your jazz free and unconventional, you will be willing to take the time to connect with the material and let yourself sink into it. Dragonjazz