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coverpic flag Belgium - Full Moon 224 - 12/06/14

Made In Belgium II
Home Records

Last autumn I raved about Aranis as one of the highlights at the 2013 Rock In Opposition (RIO) festival in southern France and also their album Made In Belgium that had been released towards the end of 2012. Aranis is an original beast with six members treating guitar, violin/viola, keyboards (mainly piano), accordion, flutes and double bass The music is instrumental to a large extent, but this time around it includes a bit obscene singing by flautist Jana Arns as well. The concept is the same as the first Made In album. 'There were still so many incredibly talented composers on our wish-list!' the liner notes of the CD booklet says. Here are elements of classical, avant-garde, contemporary serious stuff, folk, chamber, vaudeville, cabaret, even rock if you dare!

I'm only familiar with a few of the composers this time, but three are featured on both albums, namely Ward De Vleeschhouwer, Joris Vanvinckenroye and Jan Kuijken. The former used to be Aranis' piano player and his composition "Boki II" has some resemblance with minimalists such as Belgian Wim Mertens (who was featured on the first Made In volume) or American Philip Glass. But Ward is a bit more brutal and less minimalistic. The themes are interrupted and changed - and fascinating. Joris V. is the steady bass player of Aranis who has written most of the ensemble's music earlier. His "Chanoi" is a beautiful melancholic little chamber-pop something. His second offering is the short "Intermezzo II", solo double bass that demonstrates the range of the instrument. Joris has also collaborated with Jan Kuijken; the latter contributed one of my nonchalant favourites of the first Made In album. Their "Hit" is - surprise-surprise - the instant hit of the album. Some parts of it manages to be staccato and dynamic simultaneously and to some extent reminds me of Sweden's original RIO-band, the great and long gone Samla Mammas Manna. And that simply can't be wrong.

Aranis' present piano player Pierre Chevalier (also a member of the international combos Faust and Present) has been involved on the compositional side this time, too; the other two short intermezzos. The liner notes tell us that 'we dared to allow a little place for impressionist piano elegies alongside all the violence!'. "Intermezzo I " and "Intermezzo III" it is. Sax player extraordinaire Kurt Budé, member of the current line-ups of Univers Zero and Present, offers one of the more demanding tracks here "Cell Stress", both gloomy, contemporary, classical and neat, with some fascinating fuzzed-out electric guitar dominating one part of the second half. The composers of the remaining six numbers are unknown to me, two of them are female, another new dimension to the concept. Ananta Roosens offers the playful, slightly humorous cabaret'ish "Kablamo", whereas "Funambul" by Aurelie Dorzée is the quietest and prettiest of them all, dominated by the melancholic accordion (with 217 buttons!), violin and also wordless singing towards the end. The opening track "Skip XXI" by Peter Vermeersch is hectic, humorous and with a quiet break that includes madrigal-alike singing with a touch of cabaret before we're back on the hectic trail. You can find a fascinating video on YouTube of this track where the gang is filmed in a sand pit, called Aranis 2014. The last three chamber pieces are also partly hectic and humorous ("Tolles Pferd" by Koen van Roy in particular, even with Brecht-Weill-alike vocals), partly moody and playful (not least "DSK" by Maarten van Ingelgem) or partly hectic and playful (especially "La Vague" by Walter Hus).

No matter if the band play a beautiful lyrical piece, a neck-breaking hilarious one or something in between it still sounds like Aranis and still sounds cohesive. A fascinating album that will continue to fascinate! Check out the Home Records site for further investigations.

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