"Jazz fascists clear the room!" Wrong Object guitarist Michel Delville would seem to announce with the first burst of a metallic power chord at the outset of "Sonic Riot at the Holy Palate," the leadoff track of the Belgian quintet's Stories from the Shed. Purists heading for the exits would miss a lot of great music throughout this consistently inspired and often unpredictable release, however, although perhaps they would find the unpredictability off-putting. Their loss. "Sonic Riot" features some tight and energetic unison and harmony lines from tenor saxophonist Fred Delplancq and trumpeter Jean-Paul Estiévenart in a fractured motif with a Middle Eastern edge -- the tune soon stretches into modal territory with a jazzy, alternately pointed and lyrical Estiévenart solo over a solid pulse laid down by bassist Damien Polard and drummer Laurent Delchambre. And speaking of "fractured," through the middle of the mix emerges what would seem to be the unmistakable sounds of an In the Court of the Crimson King-style Mellotron (apparently thanks to Delville's guitar-synth, though). The next track, "15/05," penned by Delplancq, gives the tenorist space to display his own smooth yet robust tone and flow over the changes -- the head and bridge pull from the hard bop playbook but the rhythm section's attack on the track's defining 6/8 vamp moves the track toward jazz-rock (as do Delville's effects embellishments). Polard's "Sheepwrecked" is a comparatively spacy interlude, its looping intro of electronics and guitar with Delchambre rolling and tumbling in the background tipping a hat not only toward Soft Machine (after all, this is the Moonjune label) but, as the track flows on through a lovely melodic trumpet-and-tenor theme and the electronics continue to burble and skitter beneath Estiévenart's beautifully understated solo, also bringing American trumpeter Cuong Vu's electric and electrifying work with bassist Stomu Takeishi to mind. The ears of old Canterbury fans might also perk up at Polard's hijinks on "Lifting Belly," as the bassist conjures up processed sounds not unlike that of Richard Sinclair during "Chaos at the Greasy Spoon," an interlude during one of the suite-like structures by Hatfield and the North's The Rotters' Club.
Following a brief calm intro, "Malign Siesta" is almost a summation of the album's more uptempo side in five or so minutes, presenting a guessing game for the listener as it tumbles through herky-jerky unison playing, tenor and trumpet trading licks over a swinging break, a lovely lyrical theme, a brief drum interlude, a fusoid guitar solo, and more. The linked trio of "Theresa's Dress," "Rippling Stones," and "Theresa's Dress (Reprise)" is exploratory and highly improvisational, demonstrating the bandmembers' ability to listen and interact in the moment without necessarily blowing the roof off the joint, while "Waves and Radiations" features more spacy looping, this time with Polard's Hugh Hopper-esque effects-laden bass etching its way through the sonic landscape. "Saturn" continues a spacious feel, its trumpet-led theme echoing Miles with long lines stretching out dramatically over a 7/8 rhythm -- the tune skirts free jazz but never strays too far into chaos, the bandmembers finding their way back to the theme for a satisfying wrap-up. The two-part "Unbelievable Truth," concluding the disc, is a truly warped hybrid, with more tinges of the Middle East, a off-kilter nearly avant-prog bridge, and a lengthy rollicking tenor showcase that permutes into a tight Euro-jazz-rock vamp before dissipating into free dialogues soon dominated by Delville's scorching lead guitar. Delville burns it up in the spotlight as the band coalesces around him with a spectacular ascending ensemble arrangement leading directly into a slam-bang unison thematic finish. Might even the purists have enjoyed that one? Again, their loss...and more room at the table for listeners with less restrictive tastes. Recorded live in the studio by the core quintet and consisting entirely of original compositions, Stories from the Shed proves that the Wrong Object needn't turn to Brit jazz guest stars (as appreciated as those previous collaborations have been) or Zappa tunes to come up with arguably their strongest outing yet.