This may sound outlandish, but Vergult is no novice who just wants to surprise or impress. At 54, he has been an important figure in the local music scene for nearly 30 years.
Together with Elvis Peeters, Vergult formed the creative axis of Aroma di Amore, an ’80s band that sounded like none of their Flemish contemporaries, partly because they mixed – long before it became fashionable – guitars with electronics. Yet, as is often the fate of trailblazers, they never went beyond cult success. The group disbanded in ’94 but reunited for a few concerts two years ago.
After the demise of Aroma di Amore, Vergult had some other musical projects, with Kolk, which went defunct much too early, being the acme. For almost 10 years now, he has been making music on his own, as zool.: electronic laptop music, or as he calls it: handmade notebook music.
Zool. (and don’t forget the full stop) has released two recommendable albums: Vadem (2006) and Camera (2009). But this year he embarked on his biggest musical adventure: 365/2011. Every day of the year he puts a piece of sound – often, but not always, music – on his site. You can stream it, or you can download it.
“Paradoxically, the idea is born out of a lack of time,” Vergult says. He works part time as music librarian at VRT, the Flemish public radio. “Like loads of people I constantly have the impression that I don’t have the time to do everything I’d like to, and certainly not enough time for my music. By now, I have figured out why: I tended to lose myself too much in details.”
But he found the cure: “Making things without mulling over it too much and, spontaneously, record the ideas that well up in me.” The Antwerp-based musician often just uses his cell phone as a recording device. “I record sounds on the street, conversations I overhear, etcetera. But even when I’m working on an idea at home, I try not to kill it by sweating too much over it.”
Unsurprisingly, the results are quite varied: from a little tantrum from his daughter Alma via the sound of a telex or a guide talking in a Valencia art centre, to some flat out compositions that could have been on his previous records.
“But the latter are the exceptions,” Vergult stresses. “Most of the tracks that make up 365/2011 are sketches. Though I’ll use some of those in building new compositions for my next record. It’s like having 365 different tubes of paint from which I can choose for my next painting. For the moment, though, I’m still filling the tubes.”
And giving them away – anyone can use anything he’s recorded for their own purposes. “I’d like people to be creative with these little pieces of sound and music, without me being paid for it. I don’t see myself as the owner of these recordings because the majority of them are not the result of a creative process, but things I found in the world around me.”
Vergult will also come and play a house concert if you’d like to invite him – and, like, 20 other people.
“It’s not philanthropy,” the zool.-man emphasises. “It’s difficult for me to get good gigs. This way of working gives me the chance to play live more often. I see it as a way of presenting my music to people who don’t necessarily know me. Colleagues who have played living room concerts have told me it’s very enjoyable to do. I’ll sell my CDs and if people have enjoyed the gig and want to give a contribution, they will be more than welcome.”
I find it difficult to imagine someone not enjoying zool., so you’d better keep a fiver at hand.
Too Noisy Fish
Fast Easy Sick
Three musicians from the delightful big band Flat
Earth Society form the intriguing new jazz combo
Too Noisy Fish. Pianist Peter Vandenberghe,
double bass player Kristof Roseeuw and
drummer Teun Verbruggen each have an
impressive resumé, and their musical versatility
gets the free reins on their debut Fast Easy
Sick. There’s a little dose of smooth jazz, but
mostly they opt for adventurous escapades full
of capricious drum rhythms, insurgent bass lines
and a piano that attractively hesitates between
lunacy and sweetness. It’s really no surprise that
one of the tracks is called “Sick Jazz”. Besides
10 Vandenberghe originals, Too Noisy Fish
brings a great rendition of “The Sky Is Falling” by
Queens of the Stone Age.
The aptly titled Grimoire (a manual of black magic)
won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you’re in
for an unsettling trip to the unseen side of the
moon, Kreng will be your guide. It’s the alter ego
of Pepijn Caudron, who achieved some level of
fame playing the lead in the 2008 film Los, but is
mostly onstage with adventurous theatre troupes
like Abattoir Fermé. Partly sampled, partly played,
the spooky, mostly ambient compositions on
Grimoire combine classical music with drones.
Understatement is clearly Caudron’s middle
name, yet close listening – with the headphones
on in a darkened room – reveals there’s a lot
going on under the surface of the music. Weird
but highly beguiling.
For a year or so during the first half of the 1990s, the Vk* in Brussels (or Vaartkapoen,
as it was still called then) was the most important rock venue of the capital. The AB
had closed for an extended renovation, its temporary venue hadn’t opened yet, and the
Botanique was in those days mainly programming French music.
The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy (with Michael Franti), Gang Starr or Rage Against
the Machine: They all played for a more-than-sold-out house at the Vk*. But as soon as
the AB team started organising concerts again, the Vk* encountered much more trouble
in attracting those big names.
Yet, no one really cared, since the venue rediscovered its original aim: giving a stage to
young and up-and-coming artists or cult heroes that never reached mainstream success.
This autumn, for instance, Vk* presents the seminal Dutch underground band with punk
roots The Ex as well as the new American electronic trio The Glitch Mob.
It tends to get quite hot in Vk*, and the visibility isn’t always top notch, but, on the other
hand, the rectangular room with its wooden panels has great acoustics, for which they
are envied by some of the bigger and more famous venues.