FIZZZZING with les ébats et le feu (er, frolics and fire), French quartet Bestiole create an extravagant, fantastical whirl of excitement with their third album, Pulcinella.
Hailing from the South West (Toulouse) and translated as ‘tiny creatures’, Bestiole consists of the tireless and highly inventive talents of Ferdinand Doumerc (saxes, flute, metallaphone), Florian Demonsant (accordion, kaval), Jean-Marc Serpin (double bass) and Frédéric Cavallin (drums, metallophone, glockenspiel). And together, with theatrical, circus-like wonder as well as an innate jazz sensibility, they present this eleven-track cross-genre amalgam of kaleidoscopic colour.
That typically Gallic pairing of saxophone and accordion features strongly throughout, delivered with fluent, showy abandon by Doumerc and Demonsant. At times, as in the long-titled opening number Garez vous chez vous dans l’allée vous emmerdez tout le monde, there’s a resemblance to the Iain Ballamy and Stian Carstensen duo project, ‘The Little Radio’. But, as a quartet, with added bass and drums thrust, they push their ideas to the limits via squawks, flutters, glissandi, handclaps and yells (check out Ni vu ni connu) over rapid ostinato phrases. First hearings suggest chaos and randomness, but it’s all carefully conceived and beautifully executed.
Christiana identifies the band’s more reflective alter ego – a mysteriously lilting waltz propelled by bassist Jean-Marc Serpin, its sustained, cascading accordion gently underpinning Doumerc’s mellow tenor. The addition of Patrick Vaillant’s mandolin and Daniel Casimir’s trombone in Sur le pavé la lune conjures clandestine monochrome movie mischief, although this slippery, moonlit soundworld later breaks down into a mandolin-induced riot of brass and percussion (it’s this unpredictability which is so fascinating). The gently-rocking metallophone in Morphée, along with its slumberous tenor melody, vividly illustrates the idea of twilight sleep – and although there’s a twist (again) as sinister, nightmarish overtones develop, quietude is eventually restored.
The cheeky, spacial brevity of Raksi chaparrak (la danse du papillon) – its trilled flutes reminiscent of Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson – leads to the wonderfully sauntering-cum-swinging Le moustique ambiteux, Serpin and Cavallin providing the spiky bass and percussion propulsion – infectious stuff indeed! ‘Jazz-funk salsa’ inhabits another short episode, Tu parles trop (or ‘you talk too much’), its yakking nature portrayed superbly by pecking mandolin and brassy chatterings. Niger is sublime in contrast – lyrical tenor against undulating accordion. And then… eight minutes in the company of La Tarantelle, which buzzes, clatters and falls over itself with unalloyed exuberance. This whirling dance, which rests only momentarily, seems to sum up the band’s ethos – put simply, a rollicking good time! The quietly bewitching endpiece, Envoûtement, with its breathy kaval melody over repeated metallophone (curiously recalling Gong, Mike Oldfield) is exquisite, and a mark of Bestiole’s impressive musicality.
Successfully coupled on recent UK gigs (in the Match & Fuse series) with similarly brash British bands Troyka and Brass Mask, Pulcinella is now on general release, and hugely entertaining – here’s a quick blast of what to expect.
Ferdinand Doumerc saxophones, flûte, métallophone
Florian Demonsant accordéon, kaval
Jean-Marc Serpin contrebasse
Frédéric Cavallin batterie, métallophone, glockenspiel
Patric Vaillant mandoline
Daniel Casimir trombone
Yellowbird/Enja – 9276 (2014)