While travelling to see Stick Men in Holland, Dominique Vantomme met and befriended the ban’s legendary bassist Tony Levin. Vantomme, who is a well-known pianist, keyboardist, composer, and producer, with many European pop and rock acts plus invited Levin and others to a studio session which shortly followed. Joined by veteran MoonJune recording artist, guitarist Michel Delville of both “The Wrong Object” and “Machine Mass,” plus Maxime Lenssens, keeping time on drums, they recorded “Vegir” in a single day during October 2016. The quartet has sparked a freshness with plenty of sizzling spontaneity without veering too far away from planet earth, all while journeying towards the cosmos. Clear artistic liberty has been granted, painting a magnificent blend that goes deeper than fusion and jazzier than post-rock, all with a world beat twist, resulting in pieces that wind and weave down un-travelled paths.
Recorded by Pascal Deweze at Studio Jezuz in Hoboken, Belgium, and subsequently mixed by Fritz Sunderman with mastering by Mark Wingfield, I am pleased to say that producer Dominique Vantomme has assembled a fine production team and a fantastic set of musicians. Moonjune Records has also released this album as an 88.2kHz / 24bit download through their BandCamp page, or you can pick up the CD for your collection instead. Of course, reviewed here is the hi-res download.
Vantomme opens the nine track album “Vegir” with a repeating pattern which he streams out on the Fender Rhodes Electric Piano setting the tone on the opening track “Double Down.”. The Rhodes slight dirtiness is wonderfully transparent as it emanates in the center. The swishing of brushes soon follow as they build on the pattern and Levin’s bass deeply takes hold. The earth moving tones remind me how even without a subwoofer, stereo recordings can convey an astonishing sound quality, exemplified by the hi-res formats. Taking advantage of a wide soundscape, Deville’s guitar enters with a dreamy effect dominating the left channel with minor reflections sent to the right side. But, it is the metallic slap of the snare drum that becomes the most impactful aural ecstasy, with an immediacy that shatters the glass ceiling of dynamics. The brightness bounces off the studio walls, shedding more depth into the mix.
A ethnic influenced melody played on the Mellotron overlays a rock based rhythm which lead into heavy downbeat chord changes supplemented by robotic digital dissonance as the third track “Sizzurp” gets under way. The transparency and clarity of the recording continue to shine with the openness that pervades the piece as it reaches into the cosmos, only to regain form with the reintroduction of the melody.
The combination of an excellent sounding album along with fantastic musicians and composing have always found me returning for repeated listens. This is precisely the case with Vegir, an album which has discovered new ground in both style and texture. Fans of early King Crimson and the electricity created by Miles Davis on his well-known release Bitches Brew will likely find Vantomme’s latest album extremely enjoyable. The gristle of Levin’s Chapman Stick struts along as he ascends and descends the fretboard with each nuance clearly defined on the fifth track “The Self Licking Ice-cream Cone.” The subtle guitar rhythm spreads extremely widely across the soundscape while drums and keyboards accent the piece.
Wrapping up the album both “Emmetropia” and “Odin's Wig” take a path down the lighter side, with the sparkle of the hi-hat tapping along. The openness is well revealed incorporating depth into the mix. Reverberant space send the guitar into the distance while the remainder of the band is heard pretty close to home.. You may just find yourself drifting into space during the last piece, which continues to amplify how hi-res doesn’t get in the way of the music.
Over the past couple of decades Vantomme has worked on countless recordings, performed with many musicians, and lead several bands. This project is one not to be missed, containing fabulous music and excellent audio quality. Strongly recommended for fans of fusion, post-rock, and avant-garde, plus this is a very worthy high resolution download for audiophiles!