Perhaps, living under that same rock, you will have never heard of Consouling Sounds either. Founded by Mike Keirsbilck ten years ago, this record label has put our little country on the alternative music map again. During those ten years, Mike and Nele have been working their asses off to deliver some exquisite musical goodies from Amenra, Wiegedood, CHVE, Maudlin, A-Sun Amissa, Barst, Inwolves... The list goes on and on. And on.
So when the people from BRDCST festival invited Consouling Sounds to have a little birthday celebration, Mike quickly agreed and decided to put Dirk Serries in the spotlight. In his turn, Dirk called-up some of his henchmen and wrote down names like Stratosphere, Scatterwound, Fear Falls Burning and Yodok III. For such a line-up, I was willing to travel to Brussels, taking my own henchwoman with me, especially to witness Yodok III. She had never experienced them before. She'd be in for a wild ride.
(p.s. read my review for 'Epitaph')
Anyway, about an hour later, we arrived at the AB, one of Belgium's most respected venues. Young rock bands dream of playing at Rock Werchter. Young dance producers dream of Tomorrowland. But here in Belgium, every musician dreams of playing at Ancienne Belgique. Stratosphere did it for years and Dirk Serries made that dream come true. Rightfully so, too, but I'll get to that soon. I met Ronald inside the AB Club. He was nervous, just a tiny bit. Most of all, obviously, he was excited. "AB. I'm playing at AB". He handed me a copy of his "Collaborations 1" CD (read our review and listen to teasers) and we had a little chat. Then it was time for the event to start.
(oh, sorry about the either absence or the quality of photos. I didn't bring my camera.)
Soon it struck me. I didn't know the song he was playing. Or in other words, it was not 'Desolation', the track he had been playing live for the past several years. In fact, Ronald had decided to showcase the new Stratosphere, away from the post rock and shoegaze influences and deep into immersive ambient soundscapes.
This was a remarkable gig, one that clearly shows the next step in the evolution of Stratosphere. It was also a bit short but perfectly performed.
By the end of the Stratosphere performance, Dirk and N (Hellmut Neidhart) walked up and took their place behind Ronald. While I crawled to the back to get a drink, Scatterwound replaced Stratosphere. One's drones faded out, the other's fuzzy soundscapes faded in. With this duo, the evening gained a noisy, gritty sound, like sitting in a bobsled that goes 300 kilometers per hour on a rocky slope. It was harsh, intense and pulsating. It was brilliant too, just not very friendly for people's ears. Nonetheless, this was a perfect example of Dirk's evolution. From these mesmerizing drones to the overwhelming madness that was yet to come, the evening couldn't have been better. It certainly couldn't have started better. I high-fived Ronald in an effort to congratulate him with his convincing performance and fully enjoyed the rest of Scatterwound's impressive concert.
By now, there were about sixty or seventy people in the venue, most of them just standing there, eyes closed, listening to whatever Dirk Serries and co could throw at them. I was on the floor again, this time in the back. I enjoyed the gig but I could already feel the adrenaline in my body starting to cumulate. I knew what was coming up.
Another brief break later, it was time for one of the world's best live acts to climb on stage. Yes, in my opinion, Yodok III is one of the world's best live acts. That's why the adrenaline was building up. This was the moment I, and probably several others too, was waiting for. Guided by a friendly applause, Dirk, Tomas and Kristoffer walked on stage and took their place behind their respective equipment.
I looked at the audience. I noticed some people who had not seen Yodok III before and I focused on them. This was gonna be fun.
Then the band decided that it was time for hell to break loose. Louder and fuller in sound still, the performance suddenly blasted off in brutal, repetitive drums and a tsunami of drones, reminiscent of pummeling death metal concerts. Now there was no stopping Yodok III as they raged on with a never seen before intensity. By now, there were people headbanging, including me. Even the die-hards were impressed and the "newbies" were simply awestruck. With their mouths open in disbelief they willingly underwent the most intense ambient/jazz performance in history.
And then they did it all over again with a second track.
So, the verdict? Well, apart from the absence of chairs, this evening was simply perfect. We saw a new Stratosphere. We saw Dirk as central artist giving the very best of himself. With great ease, his enthusiasm radiated through the AB Club and infected everyone inside. On the way back home I wondered why I didn't have a Yodok III t-shirt yet, probably because they don't have merchandise like that. So congratulations Dirk and congratulations Consouling Sounds. This was perfect.
Oh, while we were carrying Stratosphere's equipment to his car, some bloke yelled "respect pour des musicièns". I couldn't agree more...