brain & balls bbq |cs176








































Buttercup Metal Polish is the confusing name of a duo of two drummers: Alexandre Babel and Nicolas Field. Improvisor Field is born in London, studied in Geneva, Amsterdam and The Hague and took part in many projects of contemporary music, jazz, improvised and electronic music, as well as for dance and theatre. His companion, the Swiss born Alexandre Babel studied drums in New York, piano and classical percussion in Geneva. Geneva is also where the recordings for this cd were done with the help of Bob Drake. And it is also the hometown of the third musician involved, pianist Jacques Demierre who works in jazz, improvised music, contemporary music, sound installations, etc, etc. You may remember him from the Insubordinations release 'Pianos' by Diatribes, Demierre & Bourquenez, that has been discussed in these columns. One would expect piano to be the solo instrument and drums in a backing role at first instance. But here piano and drummers are equally important, and the presence of
drummers has more continuity then that of the pianist. Often like in 'The Croquet Consortium', the drummers and the pianist live their own lives. The playing of the drummers is so full twists and turns, that no other partner is needed. Alas. Further on in this same piece however the piano takes the lead and the drummers follow. When this is the case, the most interesting passages occur. More then when it is the other way around. In these free improvisations both drummers excel in exuberant and dynamic playing. The way they built their runs and rally‚s, sound very predictable in the piece 'He's Likable Guts'. One feels exactly the movements the music will make and the way it will continue. But maybe it is a quality and shows their strong sense of form. Anyway a bit of an ambivalent album of improvisations of mixed qualities. Dolf Mulder (Vital Weekly)

The flurried aesthetic of Brains & Balls resembles the type of possession you learned from television and Sunday School: speaking in tongues with foreign intonation, superhuman strength, individuals with hidden knowledge of the future and the "innermost thoughts of the people around them". (By the same token — or on the contrary, as it were — those who practice Santería use sacred batá drum rhythms as part of a ritual to contact Orisha spirits and deify Changó, a force synonymous with thunder and lightning.) But losing yourself to supernatural will only leads to trouble, right? Here, the only spontaneous maggots in the family chicken dinner might be the choice of titles ("How To Choose Plus Size Dresses That Flatter (In A Mushroom)", "He's Likable Guts"). Stay the exorcist.

Brains & Balls is an emotional, sonic purge via drummers Nicolas Field and Alexandre Babel and pianist Jacques Demierre. The trio's works are about tension and release, though these rarely mingle over the course of a single track: it's either flashy drum solo voyages where every rim, spring, membrane and stick placement is utilized, or bubbling dirges of ringing, rumbling tones (yes Demierre is on piano, but his "prepared" and extended ideas attack, and when he does play keys he prefers blazing, arpeggiated multi-octave clusters). On "Who's Arms on Ma'am", they create mounting drones and subtle howls with a tapestry of bounced and dragged ghost notes, furiously rubbed heads, stunted cymbal crashes and Demierre's constant single plunking piano note. The choices of "Vulcan Nerve Pinch gravitate to muted scrapes, as the group employs this technique to grind, fondle, squeak, summon (at one point, the near-snapping piano strings emulate the sound of a symphony warming up in a rehearsal space next door) and strum everything within reach for the majority of the seventeen-minute work.

The entire album is thoroughly astounding from a technical standpoint, and the two intervals ("Lettre Du Gouverneur" at 3:51, "The Croquet Consortium" at 4:35) are fantastic tests of speed, the trio serving microsecond splats and commas, stopping on a dime, then flailing themselves back with accurate, full kit runs almost too quick to process.

With "L'Empire Du Nez", they finally merge the extremes and unveil even more tricks: while Demierre works his soundboard to produce either a dull thud or a booming echo after each pounded key, the drummers rally in call and answer with myriad bells, smacks, low end vibrations...

You get it: it's all the colors that percussion can produce, realized with, duh, brains and balls. And a few demons, the ones who passed on parties to stay home and practice until their hands bled. Dave Madden (The Squid's Ear)

Les batteurs Nicolas Field et Alexandre Babel forment Buttercup Metal Polish. Sur Brains & Balls BBQ, ils invitaient Jacques Demierre à les rejoindre.

Si le pianiste est subtil, il n’en est pas moins charismatique au point de faire acte dans la minute de sa présence imposante : un vaisseau fantôme se meut au son de la note unique que répète Demierre et puis essuie une implacable pluie de baguettes à l’orée d’une autre plage. Étouffées, les notes de piano font un beau contrepoint aux assauts tonitruants.

Demierre passé à l’intérieur de son instrument, la collaboration prend d’autres allures encore : passant d’une corde à l’autre et rapidement, il tisse un rideau de tension qui renverra dans leurs caisses les frappes sèches. La prise de son sera aride au grand moment des déferlantes : à mi parcours, Demierre, Field et Babel, s’emportent mieux que jamais au point de ruer en exercice d’endurance qui courra jusqu’au début de la conclusion – déconstruction percussive pour pièce de poésie concrète, qui clôt le fruit à la hauteur de la superbe association. Guillaume Belhomme (Le Son du Grisli)

So, before writing about the music I’ve been listening to tonight, a few words that have occurred to me about the Creative Sources label. There probably isn’t a much more maligned label than Ernesto Rodrigues’ CS imprint. For those unaware, he operates a policy in which musicians pay a portion of the cost of producing a CD on the label, in return for a large number of the discs and the opportunity to have an album issued in a professional manner on a distributed label. I’m not sure of the criteria used by Ernesto to decide what gets released and what doesn’t, but the system has certainly resulted in a highly prolific label with approaching two hundred releases over the decade it has existed, with the release rate probably higher now than it ever has been.

The criticism of the label then has mostly surrounded the quality of the music, suggesting that the label consists mainly of music that nobody else wanted to release by names nobody has heard of. As I doubt that very many people at all have heard a significant portion of the catalogue I don’t attribute much value to that kind of statement. Personally, having listened to quite a number of CS releases over the past couple of years, and having written about a number of them here, I’d say the success rate is well up over 50%, and while there have been some discs I have disliked so much I haven’t been able to write about them, others have been really very good indeed. The problem then, in my opinion, isn’t the quality, its the sheer volume of releases by often unrecogniseable names that appear on the CS list. When there are already far more CDs being released than anyone can conceivably keep up with, how is anyone meant to pick apart such a catalogue and take risks on things they know little about? This then, is where reviews make some difference, and so I hope to try and write about all of the recent stack of a dozen new CS discs over the coming weeks.

One point to make about Creative Sources though that I think is thoroughly admirable and important, but will get overlooked by the average eager consumer looking to make their next purchase- The label provides an excellent service to the improvised music community, following the communitarian philosophies that underpinned the music in its beginnings. While clearly Ernesto has enough business savvy and has got his system for releasing music finely tuned enough to be able to keep turning out releases fast, I very much doubt that he is making much in the way of profit. Instead he has set up a system that allows little known, younger, or sometimes more established musicians get music released professionally without the hassle of having to design artwork, or go through all of the often complex detail of communicating with pressing plants etc. He also ensures a good degree of distribution, and above all, he allows musicians to hold a CD of their music in their hands, that they can then sell at concerts to make a start at earning a living from the music. There are, of course, many other ways of getting music out there these days, but Creative Sources offers one option to musicians, and does so in a manner that exudes goodwill and lends a helping hand to others out there in our musical community. None of this helps us decide which CDs are worth hearing of course, but I think the above has gone largely unsaid, and needs applauding.

So, I have twelve more CS releases here. Time doesn’t allow me to spend more than one evening with each of them, but tonight I have managed to play the CD I writing about four times, witht he fourth spin coming to an end as I type. The disc I randomly took from the pile this evening is something that rejoices in the terrible name of Brain & Balls BBQ by Buttercup Metal Polish and Jacques Demierre. Buttercup Metal Polish are the duo of Nicolas Field and Alexandre Babel, both of whom play drums and percussion, while Demierre is a pianist. The music here then is all improvised, clearly coming from a free jazz inspired starting point, but there is enough variation on the disc to keep me interested.

The mix of two sets of drums and a piano is an odd one. Even when the music hits an almost straight-up skittery free jazz mode it feels like something (the bass) is missing and what we hear is a kind of skeleton that needs (or maybe doesn’t need) the gaps filled in between. My favourite tracks here though are the ones that shift away from the more traditional forms of fast, insectual improvisation though and do something a little different. The opening Whose arms on Ma’am? is a subdued affair in comparison with much of the rest of the disc, constantly suspenseful, little rolls of quiet percussion dancing around a single flickering, very quiet piano note. There is a great sensitivity at work here, a nice attention tot he music as a whole rather than letting things spiral off into duelling musicianship. While it feels like the track is about to explode at any time it actually slows as it progresses and moves more towards textural sounds, drum heads rubbed with mallets and other less easily identifiable sounds.

The second track Lettre du Gouveneur is a good example of the other area that the music here moves into, streams of expressive, fluid drumming pin pricked by little chimes and the odd bowed sound, with the piano scattered through in little fragments. So the disc is split along the lines of these two opening tracks. The third track, Vulcan Nerve Pinch might be my favourite on the CD, veering wildly away from anything jazzy and instead inhabiting a murky, distant area in which little bits of percussion and only the slightest suggestions of piano seem to hide in the corner, poking their noses out here and there. Its a bit like listening to Martin Brandlmayr performing in a room down the corridor while someone keeps opening and closing the door.

So Brain and Balls BBQ will appeal to those that enjoy the jazzier end of improv but also seek more than just the predictable when they sit down to listen. This isn’t a CD that I personally will find myself playing all that often, but it might well be one I would recommend to anyone whose listening taste is settled in older, more traditionally jazzy improvisation but seek openings into new areas. Its one that a lot of people will probably enjoy a great deal, and it certainly is very well played with a fair amount of confidence, skill and individual voice. It also has a track titled How to choose plus size dresses that flatter (in a mushroom), which might simultaneously be the best and worst track title I’ve ever seen. Richard Pinnell (The Watchful Ear)

Buttercup Metal Polish is a percussion duo (Nicolas Field and Alexandre Babel), here in a meeting with experimental pianist/improviser Jacques Demierre. There is a parallel between this CD and the recent Insubordinations release featuring guitarist Abdul Moimême and percussion duo Diatribes. Same idea: transform the string instrument into a percussive instrument (though a piano is already halfway there, but Demierre adds in inside-piano techniques) that will step inside the percussionists’ dialogue. Total lack of beats or melodies, and it often gets close to sounding like the kitchen sink, but it’s successful, although not as compelling as the somewhat gutsier Moimême/Diatribes outing. François Couture (Monsieur Délire)

Brain & Balls BBQ is another amazing release coming from the Portuguese label Creative Sources, signed by Buttercup Metal Polish together with Monsieur Demierre, an improvised trio named in a confusing way, as they don't deal with metal stuff, they're not Polish at all and arguably don't bestow pieces of advice neither on grilled beefs nor on butter fry-up! Let's do the introductions. The mad scientists of drumming are Nicolas Field - English improvisor who after and during academic studies in Geneva, The Hague and Amsterdam, collaborated for many projects related to jazz, improv, electronic music - and Alexandre Babel - Swiss born drummer, who widened his knowledge between Ney York and Geneva -, while the pianist between them is Jacques Demierre, talented experimenter on prepared piano techniques coming from Geneva and possibly boasting about a remarkable experience in sound installations, improvisational and jazz music sessions as well. Well, shake your hands and burst your ears open! You could expect drums outlines some piano suites...well, it's aptly the opposite! The piano turns into something percussive to follow the stirring and hig-spirited twists, turns, spasms and epileptic fits on the drums and the astonishing fact is that its role is everything but exiguous or fringe. It highlights the explosive rumbling in the funny track "How To choose plus Size Dresses That Flatter (In A Mushroom)" (what a whimsical title!!!!), it emphasizes the suspensive tension of the initial "Whose Arms On Ma'am?" (the stifled pounding of percussive elements as well as the increasing twists and the continual metallic rubbing is the perfect way to commence such a set!!!), it acts almost like a light anaesthetic drug in the awakening of Vulcan Nerve Pinch (the 17-minutes lasting narrative session whereas the drums work like pins!), it introduces the maddish random drumming spots (playing like rashes on the devastated skin of a teenager) in "He's Likable Guts", it seems following a solitary crazy path amidst the rhythmic scaring creatures in The Croquet Consortium (maybe the track where the three "voices" of this combo sound totally split up before the tonal battle after 3 minutes....frenzy!). You could consider it as one of the best sample of concert for crockery in your kitchen (an aesthetical naevus?) or maybe a sort of tonal eclampsia, but most of you will find this workout eclectically capricious! Vito Camarretta (Chain DLK)

Buttercup Metal Polish is the Swiss duo of drummers Nicolas Field and Alexandre Babel. Playing together since 2002, the pair represent an unusual combination of traditional jazz drumming and contemporary percussion music. Part of their appeal consists in the way conventional and unpredictable timbres line up, drum rolls matched against patterns of clicks, whirrs and scrapes. They’re matched here with countryman pianist Jacques Demierre in a series of free improvisations recorded in Japan.
While they’re capable of considerable subtlety - in the sustained pointillism of “He’s likable guts”, for example - this is a far cry from minimalist improvisation. Field and Babel are just as likely to attack with the ancient enthusiasm of Gene Krupa and they often do, hitting everything in the kit. Demierre has a mercurial touch at the keyboard, evident in the brilliantly spiky phrases set against the drummers’ random flurries of percussion on “Lettre du gouverneur”. Often, though, he behaves less like a conventional pianist than another percussionist, damping strings and exploring the whole of his instrument: on the concluding “L’empire du nez” he repeatedly finds new and isolated sounds in the piano’s interior, each one triggering a response from the drums.
The longer pieces here reveal continuous evolution, densities and sound developing rapidly and organically, as in the energized “How to choose plus size dresses that flatter (in a mushroom)”, with its rolling waves of piano sound fluttering through a minefield of snares and cymbals. Throughout the CD, Buttercup Metal Polish and Demierre manage the unlikely task of creating music that’s every bit as witty and disconnecting as their titles. Stuart Broomer (The New York City Jazz Record)

Proving that a well-seasoned pianist can more than hold his own with two bombastic percussionists is Swiss keyboardist Jacques Demierre.
With an aggressive and percussive attack that can overshadow McCoy Tyner and Cecil Taylor’s when necessary, plus minimalist single-note accents worthy of Count Basie or Ahmad Jamal, the Geneva native is able to parry anything almost literally thrown at him by Englishman Nicolas Field and fellow Swiss Alexandre Babel who perform as ButtercupMetalPolish, and lobby a few challenges their way as well. Throughout the seven Tokyo-recorded tracks, the three combine textures to easily illustrate the CD title.
Members of the N-collective, Babel and Field specialize in galvanized rhythms, working all over Europe with everyone from Art Rockers to Electronicists. Demierre’s art is more subtle. Moving among Jazz, Improv, notated Music, sound installations, and composing for theatre and dance, the pianist has partnered with musicians as
different as laptoppist D’incise, bassist Barry Guy and saxophonist Urs Leimgruber. Throughout the tracks when the percussionist threatens to head into unrelenting Heavy Metal excess, Demierre’s strategy is as often to downshift to microtonal exploration than match them timbre for timbre.
Consider the stentorian interlude with the surrealistic title of “How to Chose Plus Size Dresses that Flatter (in a Mushroom)”. While Field and Babel use quadrupled strokes with cross and opposite sticking to whack cymbals and slam polyrhythmic blasts made up of rebounds, ruffs and flams – at one point almost evoking “Wipe Out”
– the pianist’s assertive glissandi sparkling with kinetic asides, responds in kind. With the tripartite fantasia evolving at staccatissimo speed, Demierre’s tremolo syncopation weaves spherically around the drummers with such power that soon the two diminish their clamor to intermittent bass drum strokes from one and what could be marbles rolling on a drum top from the other.
Squeaks on the external wood and sostenuto pedal depression that echo in chord extensions, enliven other pieces such as “He’s Likable Guts” and “L’empire du Nez”. Often the resulting piano textures are used as dynamic counterpoint to the hollow wood strokes, bellringing and darbuka-like resounds from the percussionists. Some
feature guitar-like plucked internal piano strings, others open up enough to showcase legato intonation with each key stroke sustained to its most lyrical.
“Vulcan Nerve Pinch”, an extended showcase, practically replicates the total session in miniature. Moving from nearly inaudible squeaks and pops from all concerned, razored friction is soon evident as Demierre stops, squeezes and excites the internal strings with what could be a metal comb or a knife blade. Simultaneously he extends the piano action, so that the capotes, agraffe and dampers quiver percussively. Contrapuntally the drummers abstractly and methodically shake, rub and tickle their equipment before reaching a climax of tremolo and fortissimo clatters, quivers and slides that appear to bring into play all percussion implements on hand. High
frequency kineticism from the keyboard defines the final variant with the piece ending with decisive single key clink.
Feast on this Brain & Balls BBQ for the fired-up interaction among the three participants. Yet be aware that there’s so delicacy in the sonic sauce as well, courtesy of chef Demierre. Ken Waxman (JazzWord)

Brains & Balls BBQ du duo de p€ercussions suisse Buttercup Metal Polish, avec le pianiste Jacques Demicrrc. Le graphisme de la pochette très opaque ne me permet pas de lire les deux noms des percussionnistes (Cest d'un noir illisible el je suis dans la pénombre face à mon ordinatl'ur). Je n'ai pas le temps de pianoter dans Google pour les retrouver. C'est excellent. Leur premier Cd sur Creative Sources évoquait très positivement le duo Paul Lovens-Paul Lytton des grands soirs (des années 70 - début 80), sans l'extraordinaire virtuosité des deux Paul. Mais bon. je dis tout de suite, leur cédé s'écoute agréablement et s'il vous faut toujours des virtuoses extraordinaires pour apprécier, écoutez seulement Alvin Lee ct Ten Years After, les Yngwie Malmsteem. Steve Vaï et cie .... Et foutez - nous la paix. En résumé: de la musique improvisée avec de la substance. Jean-Michel van Schouwbourg