Dikeman / Serries: Cult Exposure.
Tonefloat Presents a New Wave Of Jazz

Yodok III: The Sky Flashes. The Great Sea Yearns.
Tonefloat Presents a New Wave Of Jazz

Dirk Serries adds to his ever-expanding catalogue with two new releases on the Tonefloat sub-label A New Wave Of Jazz, which specializes in limited vinyl editions and orients itself around free jazz-related styles. The releases in question are Yodok III's sophomore outing and Serries' collaboration with American saxophonist John Dikeman, both of them issued in runs of 240 vinyl copies.

Yodok III members Serries, drummer Tomas Järmyr, and flugabone and amplified tuba player Kristoffer Lo stoke a particularly ferocious fury on the double-vinyl set The Sky Flashes. The Great Sea Yearns., whose four improv-driven sides (the side-long pieces range between nineteen and twenty-five minutes) were birthed in Belgium over three days in June 2014. Naturally, a twenty-minute running time allows a given piece ample time to develop, and the trio undertakes its journeys with patience and deliberation; as one might expect, the music often undergoes a steady build that sees it emerging from peaceful quiet and eventually reaching a state of incredible fury. Serries, as long-time listeners familiar with his work already know, isn't an electric guitar soloist in the conventional sense but instead someone more interested in textural soundsculpting. On the ninety-minute collection, his effects-enhanced guitar generates swelling masses that ripple in tandem with Lo's muffled horn tones, while Järmyr produces an ever-inventive flurry of percussive colourations. One of the more interesting things about the project is that it upturns the standard approach where the guitarist is the primary soloist; in Yodok III's case, it's Järmyr who solos most. Also interesting is the fact that the drummer never plays conventional beat patterns; like Serries, Järmyr is primarily concerned with colour, texture, and atmosphere.

The first side's “Watching the Stone of Celestial Flaw Rush Down” makes perhaps the strongest case for the trio's approach, especially when the hellacious pitch the musicians rise to is, frankly, awesome. Though Järmyr's volcanic attack during the piece's last eight minutes beggars belief, so too does Serries in the way he matches the drummer's ferocity with his own wail. Mindful of pacing, the group wisely dials down the intensity on side two's “In a Realm of Wander Behold the Fleeting Shadows Exclaim in Delight” for a more becalmed meditation. With the drummer playing understatedly, Serries' textural layers occupy the spotlight, though the balance between the three gradually evens out as the piece swells in volume and Järmyr's and Lo's contributions grow more conspicuous.

On album two, “For Seconds He Felt the Grandeur of Devastation” sees the drummer first playfully working through his percussion arsenal whilst accompanied by ambient guitar ripples before turning to his kit as the material expands in scope. As the piece enters its final third, his playing grows ever more aggressive until it matches the opening side's intensity level. Side four's “Together We Transcend Into This Wreckage Called Heart” slowly emerges from a thick windstorm to cap the recording with slow-motion horn tones, guitar washes, and furious drum flourishes. By the time the album's end is reached (if not before), it's clear that The Sky Flashes. The Great Sea Yearns. doesn't slot itself easily into any one genre, be it free jazz, rock, ambient, or otherwise. Instead Yodok III's music embodies some distinctive and powerful hybrid of all of them.

Ever explorative, Serries teams up with saxophonist John Dikeman (Cactus Truck, Universal Indians, etc.) for the single-album release Cult Exposure, recorded like the Yodok III set in Belgium in 2014 but in this case during two days in April and July. Two pieces per side are featured on the release, which also originated out of improvisations. In contrast to the genre-defying The Sky Flashes. The Great Sea Yearns., Cult Exposure has strong ties to the avant-garde jazz tradition, specifically by way of Dikeman's free-spirited playing. As if to declaim his soloistic presence on the recording, he opens the first piece, “The Monolith Song,” with two minutes of unaccompanied playing before Serries enters with fuzz-toned smolder to complement his partner's robust attack. Lunging often into an upper register, Dikeman squeals and wails throughout the piece in a possessed manner reminiscent of kindred firebrands from the ‘60s. Somewhat peaceful by comparison, the funereal title cut finds the musicians engaged in a more balanced dialogue, with each responding to the expressions of the other, even if they both play uninterruptedly for much of it. Even more peaceful is “Whisper Edge,” where Serries' restrained chords and Dikeman's purring phrases exhale for fifteen calming minutes. Not surprisingly, the two amp up the activity and energy levels for the closer, “The Monolith Song II,” which revisits the free jazz-styled flavour of the opener and makes for a blustery finish to an album that long-time Serries listeners might regard as a surprising though not unwelcome addition to his discography.

February 2015