Jean D.L. & Karen Willems – Lyra

jean dlPrevious blog posts have included descriptions of certain noise pieces as more or less musical. What I’m getting at there is the ability of some composers to turn unconventional sound sources into music that can be appreciated by more than just committed noise fans.

This is not to say that these pieces are easy to listen to. But they do trigger the same emotional reactions that more conventional music is capable of. Achieving that with found sound and electronically produced noise is no small accomplishment.

A recent collaboration by Jean D.L. and Karen Willems is a great example. Lyra’s five tracks run about 31 minutes. The two Belgians have produced a stunning album.

Jean D.L. is an experimental ambient artist who has produced solo work and collaborated with a long list of partners: S. Biset, Zbigniew Karkowski, Mauro A. Pawlowski, Teun Verbruggen, Antoine Boute, Jozef Van Wissem, Justice Yeldham, Jean-Philippe De Gheest, Paul Labrecque, Anla Courtis, Jozef Dumolin and Damo Suzuki Network.

Karen Willems is a percussionist who has worked with o.a, Zita Swoon Group, Jan Swerts, Novastar, Pascal Deweze (Inwolves), Aidan Baker, Eric Thielemans, Dirk Serries and BARST.

Despite their extensive resumes, Lyra is bound to be a highlight of both careers.

The album opens with “Real Time Travel.” Quiet electronics, a disjointed spoken word in the background. And then a kind of electronic storm rolls in. Willems’ start-and-stop percussion adds to the tension. It’s a dramatic opening.

“The Basics of Moving Around” comes next. The noise is far more grating on this piece. We’re being challenged here. Again, Willems’ percussion is mesmerizing. The musicality here is jazz based. Imagine Art Blakey paired with a second-generation Nihilist Spasm Band.

“The Quiver” and “Like Rebellions” are the album’s two most difficult listens. The noise is of the heavy industry variety. Fans of Einstürzende Neubauten and Test Dept. will be duly impressed.

Even those two pieces retain a strong compositional sense that adds immensely to the work’s appeal. Like the rest of the album, these tracks are more than just noise. Lyra epitomizes what’s so exciting about this style of new music; one that continues to have extraordinary potential.

Kevin Press

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