A New Wave of Jazz


YODOK III

Dutch label tone­float and the pro­li­fic Flem­ish musi­cian Dirk Ser­ries have been work­ing together closely for years now, but this month, they are tak­ing their col­lab­or­a­tion to a new level.  A New Wave of Jazz is the title of a new sub­la­bel of tone­float and its descrip­tion sug­gests that it will be home to music with a ded­ic­ated impro­visa­tional approach, inspired by the free jazz and DIY philo­sophy of Sun Ra and the El Sat­urn label. In this case, that means albums cur­ated by Ser­ries, released on lim­ited edi­tion LPs in cus­tom sleeves.

To kick­start the label, two albums are being released this month, both pro­jects fea­tur­ing Ser­ries him­self on gui­tar. The first album, the self-titled début of the pro­ject YODOK III, sees Ser­ries joined by Tomas Järmyr on drums, and Kris­tof­fer Lo on brass. The second album, _ASHES AND BLUES by THE VOID OF EXPANSION, is just Ser­ries and Järmyr as a duo.

For no par­tic­u­lar reason, I’ll start with the lat­ter album. The tracks on _ASHES AND BLUES are built on an even flow of gui­tars, mostly chords, drones, indi­vidual notes, all stretched out and laid down gently. This is off­set by the rip­pling drums that vary much more in intens­ity, from total absence to tum­bling solos. As often with Ser­ries’ pro­jects, there is a strong tend­ency to build each piece towards a nat­ural cres­cendo — a steady, unforced accu­mu­la­tion of sound from all instru­ments. In this case, the gui­tar tones gain depth, a bit of rough tex­ture, while the drums simply become ever more present and intense.

THE VOID OF EXPANSION - _ASHES AND BLUES

The wildly impro­vised per­cus­sion is indeed remin­is­cent of some of the more frantic areas of jazz, but it is bal­anced by the unwaver­ing sta­bil­ity of the gui­tars. Rather than all instru­ments set­ting off in the same dir­ec­tion, a curi­ous branch­ing is cre­ated between har­mony and rhythm — like one dan­cer whirl­ing fast around an almost motion­less one. The YODOK III album is sim­ilar in setup to that by THE VOID OF EXPANSION, but it has the addi­tion of Lo on tuba and flug­a­bone. These soft, drawn out waves of brass form a nat­ural com­ple­ment to Ser­ries’ gui­tar fun­da­ment, while the drums still provide a form of coun­ter­point, much like their role on the other album. Because of this added vari­ety in sound, I slightly prefer Yodok III over its com­pan­ion.

Judging from the sublabel’s name, I had expec­ted the first sounds to be some­what dif­fer­ent from what it turned out to be, more dis­tant from the exist­ing tone­float cata­logue, for one thing. It’s not that I’m oper­at­ing with a par­tic­u­larly nar­row defin­i­tion of jazz, it’s more that the albums aren’t really a huge depar­ture from most of Ser­ries’ other works from the past few years. Per­haps that depar­ture will come with the addi­tion of other artists to the label roster. After all, a col­lec­tion of music centered around the theme of free explor­a­tion and impro­visa­tion can afford to be diverse, or maybe it can’t even afford not to be diverse. That said, I’m sure a com­poser like Ser­ries has the insight to cur­ate the label well, and time will tell what the dir­ec­tions are going to be.

So far, A New Wave of Jazz can pride itself on being home to two strong new (Ser­ries & co) pro­jects, the first of which — YODOK III — will make its live début this month in Bel­gium and the Neth­er­lands, with live per­form­ances of THE VOID OF EXPANSION planned for later this year. Both sound like live music par excel­lence, so I’m look­ing for­ward to see­ing these sounds unfold in front of me.

You can stream and order the albums on the label’s Band­camp: YODOK IIITHE VOID OF EXPANSION