Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"74 Miles Away". Belgium is not as far as you think.

74 Miles Away Live Concert @ Dour Festival 2011-6390
[click photo for behind the scenes video]
74 Miles Away at the Dour Festival 2011 - 
Pierre Anckaert, Eric Paquet, Louis Van De Leest (left to right). 
Photo compliments of Kmeron.

FYI, Belgium has more to offer the rest of the world than waffles. Not only has the country been home to a number Nobel Prize winning scientists but there are also some noteworthy Belgian musicians that have been occupying my playlists recently. A major part of that Belgian music scene has been the artist collective known as Laid Back (LDBK). LDBK is a project that started in 2002 as a radio show on a local radio station in Brussels. The radio show is now available online and the project has grown to include a variety of artists such as designers, photographers, writers, musicians, DJs, producers, filmmakers etc. According to the website, LDBK's priority is "to connect existing communities around the world and activate them to engage in different projects". One superb project that I has been activated through LDBK is the union between two Belgian outfits - Pierre Anckaert Trio and MonkeyRobot. The result is music that blows you no less than 74 Miles Away.

Pierre Anckaert: is a Belgian jazz pianist/composer who studied at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels and also spent a month on a course in Afro-Cuban music in 2003. In 2007 his trio was awarded first prize at the Jazz Hoeilaart International Contest. A year later he released his first recording "Candide" as a trio ensemble with double bass and drums. His music is incredibly diverse with sets ranging from trios, quartets, quintets, and big bands to the Brussels Chamber Orchestra. The Belgian composer/conductor Frédéric Devreese had this to say about Anckaert and his work:
"A particularly happy mix of jazz and classical music, subtle harmonizations and surprising modulations, inventive and virtuoso improvisations, a variety of atmospheres and terrific grooves... In a nutshell, a discovery!"

MonkeyRobot: On the other side of the coin is a pair of musicians/beatmakers/producers from Brussels: Eric Paquet (Eric P.), Louis Van De Leest (LuiGi) who have previously worked under the moniker InfinitSkills. Their works are genius and their instrument implementation takes you on a ride you can feel as it moves you through different levels. According to LDBK founder, Julien Mourlon, Eric P. and LuiGi had been DJs for the LDBK radio show for over five years. Here is what he has to say about them: 
"Since I met them in 2003, it was the “old vs new” duality that I liked in their music. Being musicians and beatmakers, sampling live instruments or adding organic layers to their beats was their trademark. When Louis released a cover of René Costy’s "Scrabble" (the Chapell libary cut used by Dilla for his classic "F*** The Police") on Jazzy Sport last year with long time friend Pierre Anckaert on the Fender Rhodes, it was clear there would be a follow up to this collaboration."

The first track that I heard from 74 Miles Away was the opener of the
LDBK compilation "All School Flavor vol. 1" - Seven Four. This hybrid track is the perfect example of what makes this collaboration and the 74 Miles Away project the perfect idea. Though not the most complex piece of music, it is a nice fresh take on the Cannonball Adderley track 74 Miles Away (perhaps their name is in tribute to Adderley?). The seamless transition and mingling of the work from both sides goes a long way to validate the marriage of the Anckaert Trio and MonkeyRobot.

Pierre Anckaert Trio vs. MonkeyRobot: The above cut is definitely an apéritif to their current release "74 Miles Away: Pierre Anckaert Trio vs. MonkeyRobot" which is deeper in complexity. According to the LDBK website "The main idea behind this “74 Miles Away” project is to put the Fender Rhodes – one of the most precious electric pianos of the last decades – in the spotlight". To reinforce this idea, this promo video clearly shows the 'Seventy Three' Fender-Rhodes taking center stage.  
The concept of the album is one that works well for the talents involved and challenges you as the listener. Four electronic jazz tracks composed and arranged by Anckaert and cut by his trio (P. Anckaert - Fender Rhodes; R. Korolik - Bass; D. Barker - Drums; S. Bracaval - flute [tracks 1 & 3]) comprises the first half of the album. Then tracks 5-8 are those same four tracks reworked by MonkeyRobot along with the introduction of vocals to create a new set of tracks with a jazz fusion tone. The result is 8 tracks (yes, I can do math) but I always find myself trying to decipher and detect bits of Anckaert's originals in the MonkeyRobot tracks and although they are radically reworked, if you listen carefully, there are detectable elements under the heavy synth layers and mesmerizing harmony.
The entire album can be listened to as completely separate songs (the tracks are arranged with the 4 Anckaerts Trio cuts followed by the 4 MonkeyRobot cuts) and they will stand alone just fine or you can create a playlist and play each rework after its original...this is what I did for the first few listens in order to pick up on the similarities. Either way just lay back and let the music take you away...74 miles away.

Here you can take a listen to "Chromeface" and its counterpart "Neverending Rhodes" below and catch a studio session video here.

To hear more you can listen to/purchase the album here. It is also available on iTunes.

For more like 74 Miles Away I recommend listening to/purchasing the LDBK "All School Flavor vol. 1" compilation. There are some great cuts on it including tracks from ClassicBeatz, Bongholio Iglesias, 40 Winks, LeFtO and more.

Thanks to Vincent Philbert aka Kmeron for permission to use his photos. Check out more pics of 74 Miles Away at the Dour Festival or his entire concert archive.


  1. Thanks for all you say!

    Don't miss our new video

  2. Cool. I've updated the main pic so that clicking on it links to that video :)