Hermia/Ceccaldi/Darrifourcq – Kaiju Eats Cheeseburgers(Hector/Full Rhizome. CD Review by Sam Norris)
Franco-Belgian trio Hermia/Ceccaldi/Darrifourcq are certainly not afraid to exist on the fringes of improvised music. Their first album, God At The Casino, is a fascinating mélange of edgy grooves, wild extended techniques and avant-garde soundscapes, and this latest effort, the zanily-titled Kaiju Eats Cheeseburgers (Kaiju being the Japanese word for a genre of film prominently featuring giant monsters), is just as exploratory. Despite being short at only five tracks – three by cellist Valentin Ceccaldi, one by saxophonist Manuel Hermia and one by drummer/percussionist Sylvain Darrifourcq – the record gives the listener a wide-ranging insight into the band’s increasingly distinctive musical palette.
The first tune, from which the album takes its name, is one of Ceccaldi’s. The virtuoso cellist has spoken about how the music of this trio is ‘based on intensity’ and ‘charged with physical energy’, mantras which are established right from the outset with a heavy, double-stopped cello ostinato. The combined force of Ceccaldi and Darrifourcq is nothing short of earth-shattering and provides a deeply grooving basis for Hermia, whose anarchic saxophone ramblings rise and fall organically within the texture before settling on one sustained, glassy tone. Darrifourcq’s shrill percussion during this otherwise placid drone section may lead the listener to believe she is suffering from the effects of tinnitus; the cellist’s characteristic thunk brings the piece back to its earthy beginnings, though, laying the groundwork for a climactic final free-up.
Ma-rie Antoi-nette, another Ceccaldi composition, again starts cello solo, this time with a rhythmically complex meditation on two double-stopped pitches. The decision to superimpose Hermia’s gorgeously fluid saxophone melody onto such an ominous underpinning is a hallmark of this group’s style, namely the bringing together of disparate musical elements with a refreshing nonchalance towards the orthodoxy of contemporary jazz. Darrifourcq once again drives the music with a visceral energy which is ultimately matched by his bandmates, Hermia cranking up the intensity with multiphonics and other rarely heard techniques; the saxophonist is on equally fine form during Ceccaldi’s Charbon, exhibiting a mastery of both intervallic and motivic improvising.
The textural focus of this group, rather than the quest for metric and harmonic intricacy so often undertaken by contemporary jazz musicians of a similar vintage, becomes even clearer listening to Hermia’s Disruption. This one is reminiscent of a contemporary classical ‘noise’ piece, eschewing a conventional melody or chord structure. Ceccaldi’s cello sounds in equal parts like a creaking door and a whale, and the unusual timbres that the percussionist coaxes from his instruments – created by rubbing various metal objects on each drumhead – are an effective and intriguing accompaniment. There are parts of this piece and the final track, Darrifourcq’s Collapse In Sportswear, that sound almost sci-fi inspired, particularly the snarling Logan’s Run-ish swells at the end of the former and the incessant high-pitched synth which kicks off the latter.
In sum, this album is a successful sequel to the group’s debut. It uses a similar sonic language but the trio feels more assured with it, each piece nurturing rhythmic and textural seeds until they germinate into a rich musical tapestry. Even the cover art looks better thought through, its depiction of a surreal humanoid creature (consuming a cheeseburger through a straw, no less) complementing the trio’s eccentric artistic outlook. It is multi-faceted music, not for the faint of heart, which needs multiple listens to squeeze the most out of it; it is worth it, though, because what these three gentlemen are doing is unlike anyone else in Europe or elsewhere.
Kaiju Eats Cheeseburgers was released on 18 September 2020 and is available on Bandcamp