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«When the shade is stretched»

We can assume that when American seminal guitarist Ry Cooder scored the suggestive-poetic guitar lines for Wim Wenders’ film, «Paris, Texas» (1984), he did not imagine that more than thirty years later two Belgians will answer his soundtrack with their own suggestive-poetic album, only this time with banjos.

This Gent, Belgium initiative is is a marriage of two partners, each one plays solo on a whole side of the vinyl album that sketches a string of highly cinematic environments in the much greener Belgian wilderness. Guitarist Ruben Machtelinckx, known for his ongoing collaboration with Scandinavian musicians as Icelandic guitarist Hilmar Jensson and Norwegian hardanger fiddler Nils Økland and percussionist Ingar Zach plays on Side A, and this is his first solo recording. One of the hidden secrets of Belgian jazz and improvised music, guitarist Frederik Leroux, plays on Side B. Leroux released his first solo banjo album on 2013, simply titled «Banjo» on his own label, Sill anders.

Both sides of the split album «When the shade is stretched (But sometimes when it’s your brother you look the other way)» relate to each other, but they do not intertwine. Each of of the resourceful guitar brothers Machtelinckx and Leroux contribute about twenty minutes of solo performance, focusing on the sounds and timbral scope of the banjo. Both play the banjos in their own distinct, highly original ways. The banjos are amplified and manipulated, and Machtelinckx and Leroux often employ extended techniques, effects and objects.

Machtelinckx pieces sound as pieces of a larger puzzle, slowly adding new, evocative nuances, color and shades to a complex, emotional story. The spartan, enigmatic yet dense pieces of Leroux deepen even further the cinematic atmosphere and suggest a direct link to Cooder’s blues-country soundtrack, but one that is rooted in a much greener nature, even radiating a more optimist narrative. Together with the beautiful artwork by Charif Benhelima this is a beautiful, unique album.

Eyal Hareuveni

Ruben Machtelinckx (bjo, long scale banjo, g, vibration speaker, obj), Frederik Leroux (bajo, tape delay, v, rec, bird whistle, harm, perc, p and synth)

Ruben Machtelinckx – One Morning, Ten Years Later from Aspen Edities on Vimeo.