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Slang: Save The Chilis

Belgian trio Slang's latest effort isn't exactly brand new, but how many of us have actually heard these guys? Upon learning that this is another bass & vocals, winds and percussion threesome, Morphine and TriPod instantly came to mind. Those two bands have a bit more in common with each other, while Slang is a vessel all its own: the listener is taken through a veritable roulette wheelful of moods & colors throughout the eleven ethno-tinged, jazz~rock tracks on the curiously-titled Save The Chilis. Bassist-vocalist François Garny performs on electric, acoustic & upright basses; Manuel Hermia's alto & soprano saxes rule the roost, but he picks up a flute for the closer. However, the most pleasant surprise happens to be percussionist Michel Seba—that's right, percussion, not drums of the standard kit variety. Seba's liquid tabla & conga grooves & snare treatments are what set this album far apart from those two other bands—in a most agreeable way. That, and that the final recorded product sounds so rich, smoky and organic that if this was all recorded with PC software tools, my jaw may require a sling.

Roughly two-thirds of Chilis is instrumental, but songs "Sugar" and "Yukun Slang" set the tone: Garny's mastery of multiple bass styles couldn't be more apparent, yet he plays with quite a bit of restraint, as though his lines come rather easily and he isn't anywhere close to skirting the fringes of his ability. Now, when it comes to his baritone vox, Garny emulates certain jazz players who don't have much chops, vocally, but still choose to sing. This is a face-value factor that doesn't really affect matters in the grand context—just soak up the juicy, distorted tone of that electric bass! "Small Steps" happens to have a great, "warbly" tone that lends a bit of an "extraterrestrial" feel one gets from Moog bass, while Garny goes for an almost Clavinet-like sound on "Oude Fox"—the long opening phrase would likely be played identically on a real Clav.

"La Trilogie d'Apu" is the resident mini-epic, opening with an Arabic motif performed by Hermia, countered by the drones of bowed bass and Seba's rhythmantra. Not to be outdone by Garny's constant shift in bassic colors, Hermia's alto sax pitches itself to the high of a violin squeak on "Hombre feli." The title track is an uptempo one fuelled by a most aggressive bassline—it's also the shortest (2:08). Seba's quick-draw snare fills are met with the only instance of a [triggered, or electronic] kick drum. The momentum is halted midway through for a sax solo. "La Gigue" closes things on a smoother note; Hermia trades in his saxes for a flute—and engages in some fab unison lines with Garny! Save The Chilis' only downside is that it's been a few years since Slang's second release (Los Cocos was the first). Maybe we'll get a new one in '04!

1. Sugar 3:55
2. Yukun Slang 5:52
3. Small Steps (for big people) 6:30
4. Bazaar 6:30
5. La Trilogie d'Apu 11:06
6. Oude Fox 7:09
7. Nana 6:15
8. Nombre feli' 3:55
9. Own Wings 3:25
10. Save The Chilis 2:08
11. La Gigue 4:13
Total Time: 59:48

Added: February 22nd 2004
Reviewer: Elias Granillo
Related Link: Jazz In Belgium Dot Org ~ SLANG Page
Hits: 2585
Language: english

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