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POOR ISA

«Let’s Drink The Sea And Dance»
ASPEN EDITIES, ASPEN 007

The releases of the Belgian boutique label Aspen Edities always offer an imaginative experience that blends challenging music, bold vision and insightful poetic references. Poor Isa, the duo of experimental banjo players Frederik Leroux and Ruben Machtelinckx, is no different. The title of its debut album is inspired by the work of Belgian painter and writer Philippe Vandenberg (1952-2009), known for his investigative themes of war, religion, movement, sexuality and death and his bold usage of images, words, symbols and other historical reference that induce a state of wonder. Two paintings of Vandenberg are used on the cover of «Let’s Drink The Sea And Dance» that refers also to a line from T.S. Eliot’s poem «Burnt Norton» (from «Four Quarters», 1943): at the still point, there the dance is.

Leroux and Machtelinckx shared a split album, «when the shade is stretched» (Aspen Edities, 2017), where both played banjos. The acoustic banjo still form the base once more, but now the banjos are prepared with various objects as woodblocks and expresses a surging condition in which silence and sound are equivalent. «Let’s Drink The Sea And Dance» compiles nine compositions, developed, magnified and isolated out of open, subtle improvisations.

The atmosphere of «Let’s Drink The Sea And Dance» is sparse, mysterious yet highly cinematic. Each of the nine piece offer a distinct variation on this atmosphere and Leroux and Machtelinckx never play their banjos as the traditional Country & Western strings instruments but like out-of-tune Japanese shamisen on «Sill», bowed like Greek lyras on «The sun at two» or as surreal basses on «Elsewhere». «Izu» even distils their intimate interplay into a brief and implied one, like a Zen haiku and the following «Seagarden» suggests a fragile drone. «Shroud» attempts to discipline daily urban sounds and the last «Sunday lemons» send the curious listeners to reflect and meditate on some tasty weekends meals.

Eyal Hareuveni

Frederik Leroux (bjo, woodblocks, v, thunderdr.), Ruben Machtelinckx (bjo, woodblocks, v)