Album review

De Beren Gieren – ‘Less Is Endless’

De Beren Gieren – Less Is Endless
(Sdban Ultra. Album review by Peter Slavid)

In Europe, in recent times, trios have often struggled to escape the dominating shadow of EST. But De Beren Gieren is one of those rare piano trios that has a genuinely distinctive sound.

Their music is distinguished by their use of simple but hypnotic riffs often built around only two or three notes, along with the clever but discreet use of electronic effects, sometimes hardly discernible, as an enhancement of the background riffs. In addition this is a genuinely collaborative trio with as much focus on the bass and drums as on the piano.

The band is Fulco Ottervanger (piano, fx, synths), Lieven Van Pée (bass) and Simon Segers (drums, fx). They first got together in 2009, and their 2017 album Dug Out Skyscrapers was on a lot of people’s “best of year” lists.

Three of the tracks from Less Is Endless have already been released as singles, and the full album was due to be released in February, but was delayed until now because of the pandemic.

The album opens with one of the singles. A Funny Discovery is fairly typical; a short bowed riff is gradually developed until single piano notes resonate over the top, before gradually becoming more melodic. Then suddenly it stops, and a different background riff starts up, then more piano – this time more expansive and improvised as the drums too start to interject. Another sudden stop followed by a return to the original riff. The overall effect is quite hypnotic.

The next track – the title track – has a totally different sound. It’s led by a mysterious sounding bass over which the piano contributes sharp chords. The electronics enhance the overall spooky-movie feel.

There are several other distinctive tracks. Guggenheim House, in which the piano hardly appears, is dominated by strong bowed bass notes. This is enhanced by effects and with accompanying percussion using mallets. And then Moments Never a Moment which has a really dramatic feel.

The final track, A Random Walk, is almost 19 minutes long, and offers a mixture of the riffs, rhythms and improvisations we find in the rest of the album, with the rather odd addition of some intricate Baroque style piano.

Anyone who has followed this band knows to expect something a bit different from the conventional piano trio, and Less Is Endless lives up to that expectation.

Peter Slavid broadcasts a programme of European Jazz on mixcloud.com/ukjazz and various internet stations

LINK: Less Is Endless on Bandcamp

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