Splinks

Consensus

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Consensus is the second release by Netherlands experimental vocalist Jaap Blonk's big band Splinks. In terms of compositions for groups, this two-CD set follows Speechlos, the second album from Blonk's other working unit Braaxtaal (this one a trio). Both CDs are packaged similarly, too. But the comparisons must end here because while the trio's main focus is quirky electro-pop vocabulary, the 13-piece Splinks (string section, brass section, guitar, percussion, and voice) develops an idiom rooted in jazz (something very well exemplified by the ballad "Evening Twilight," which is almost too untypical). Since his voice is blended through a dozen other instruments, the focus here is more on Blonk's writing than on his vocalizing, although his fans won't be disappointed -- he gets some very good features. From very short ditties (the 16 "Reportraits" are only ten seconds long) to 15-minute compositions, humor has always been an important part of Blonk's work and it is central here: musicians have fun, so does the listener. "For Just a Little HondeKip" is a party bebop number with more than a passing resemblance to Thelonious Monk's "Hackensack." Even at his most serious, Blonk can't stand still: The seven-part "Hotel Vergetelheid" is a beautiful violin/double bass/trumpet trio with a strong contemporary classical approach, but when Blonk enters in the middle section with his slow vocals, one can't help but feel how much irony and simple childish humor he puts into it. As the music goes from serious new jazz textures to exuberant creative big band to free improv, the listener gets a big amount of entertainment from one of the best entertainers on the experimental scene, backed by a five-star band of improvisers.

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