Flat Earth Society Orchestra Boggamasta III
(Igloo Records. Review by Tony Dudley-Evans)
Flat Earth Society Orchestra, “the flagship of slightly deranged Belgian jazz” as they call themselves, is a big band that tours regularly in continental Europe, but rarely comes to the UK. There was an exception: in 2010, when Todd Wills was the main programmer at the Vortex Club in London, he was very enthusiastic about the band and brought them over for a short tour. They also played the mac in Birmingham, performing a mix of composition and improvisation to a famous silent film from 1919, The Oyster Princess. This was a highly successful event. Peter Bacon in his Jazz Breakfast review (LINK) commented:
“It’s a surreal and extremely funny film, grotesque and slapstick by turns, and from this distance in time, and Lubitsch being less familiar than Chaplin or Keaton, would probably have provided a satisfyingly entertaining hour on its own. The music transformed it into something much more enjoyable still.”
As a result of this connection, I was invited to Antwerp for the launch of the band’s new project, Boggamasta – REVIEW HERE. This new work had come about as a result of guitarist David 9½ Bovée rejoining the band and travelling on holiday to The Gambia with Peter Vermeersch, the leader of the band. While there, they witnessed the departing president parading through the capital surrounded by majorettes and throwing money to the crowd. This gave them the idea for Boggamasta, a reflection of an all-powerful megalomaniac person, elements of which they consider to be present in all people’s personalities.
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The music representing this character trait was loud, heavily rhythmic and included some quite weird vocals. To be honest, I wasn’t sure about the music. It was clearly good fun, and was well received by an enthusiastic standing audience, but I was puzzled by how different it was from what I had previously heard.
Boggamasta III is the second album from this project, named as number III as it is coming out some years after the first. The music is very similar to what I heard in Antwerp. It combines interesting writing for the orchestra with a focus on the brass section, and vocals, many of which are manipulated and distorted electronically.
All this is apparent from the beginning with Dust From The Stars which starts with a statement from the brass section, and moves immediately into the vocals with female voices interacting with a distorted male voice. The music then moves to and fro between these three elements. Trust In Me follows a similar pattern. In Sit Rise (on video below) the vocal reminds me of American rapper Mos Def, and on the longer track What there is at one point what seems like a caricature of David Bowie’s style before it returns to a more call and response move between the female and male voices.
The music is entertaining, but after 10 tracks and 66 minutes of music I began to find it repetitive and a little unrelenting; one misses some of the subtlety of the music of their score for The Oyster Princess.
Boggamasta III is released today, 18 June 2021
Categories: Album reviews