Belgium's Pierre Vervloesem is probably best known as an inventive electric guitarist, but he sometimes straps on a bass to propel the low notes, and that's the case with his Simple quartet, whose avant jazz-rock debut, Undeletable, was released in 2014 as the eighth outing in the Off label's P.V. Presents series. Vervloesem is joined by alto saxophonist Bruno Vansina, keyboardist Joris Caluwaerts, and drummer Didier Fontaine, and they're off to a spirited start with "Belgian Triumphalism," a jumpy little number nowhere close to a fist-pumping nationalistic anthem. This is seemingly triumphalism that just wants to have fun, with Caluwaerts applying a good-natured organ tone to the sprightly melody, doubled by Vansina's assertive sax over Vervloesem's thick yet relentlessly kinetic bass and Fontaine's crisp, clean drumwork. The band launches into a four-way improv in the tune's midsection that nearly pulls apart at the seams but never loses an iota of momentum, thanks largely to the unflagging energy of the Vervloesem-Fontaine rhythm team. "Blabaway Utterbunk" pushes from one earworm melody to the next as it builds from a bright toe-tapper to a rough-textured foot-pounder before easing back up at the end, all within three minutes. And jams don't get any funkier or tighter than "Domestic Daredevil," on which Vervloesem must've busted a pick and Caluwaerts modulates his keyboard voicings with the acumen of a Zawinul or Horvitz.
Vervloesem hasn't lost his touch for wacky song titles that are weirdly appropriate to the music -- "Finally an Elephant Full of Jam," "One of These Doris Day," "The Amazing Soundcheck Band" -- although "One of the Weakest Tune of the Set (Part 1)" isn't. This multi-sectioned mini-opus begins with tight segues of rapid-fire proggy fusoid cartoon jazz before settling into a relatively relaxed groove beneath woozy pitch-shifted keys; a bridge of dreamy synth strings leads into a spiky solo from Vansina as the band funks and spaces it up around him before shifting through heavy chords into a steady-rocking vamp that pushes Caluwaerts into overdriven, Canterbury-esque territory. Here's hoping the band records a Part 2 that's equally weak. The title "Mental Mento" references the pre-reggae Jamaican folk form, but the track is dub deep, filled with spacy keyboard effects anchored by a steady groove and Vervloesem's melodic bassline, with Vansina and Caluwaerts playing skewed reharmonizations in the foreground. "One of These Doris Day" could be a (concise) "Boogie-Woogie Waltz" for the 21st century, and "Oscar Niemeyer" covers the distance between pummel and swing in the blink of an eye. After unfortunately deleting the digital music files from Simple's first session for the album, the musicians reportedly started all over again to record the ironically titled Undeletable, and listeners should be grateful that they didn't let the circumstances put them in a manifestly foul mood. In fact, one might imagine that the band attacked Vervloesem's compositions with even greater gusto on the second go-round, as if daring any digital recording device to delete music this incisive, lively, and yes, tuneful.