Review by Achim Breiling (

Für ihr fünftes Studioalbum haben sich Aranis etwas Besonderes ausgedacht. Nur zwei der 12 Stücke von "Made In Belgium" stammen aus der Band (von Joris Vanvinckenroye bzw. Ward De Vleeschhouwer - dem neuen Mann am Piano). Die restlichen Nummern stammen von zeitgenössischen belgischen Komponisten, die die Gruppe kontaktiert und um Beteiligung an dem Projekt gebeten hat. Man hatte nämlich festgestellt, dass man Teil einer Bewegung, eines Stiles ist - "Belgischer Kammerrock" - und wollte, nach 10 Jahren Bandgeschichte, eine Art Bestandsaufnahme des Stils liefern und auch einen Überblick über dessen Protagonisten.

So finden sich unter den beteiligten Komponisten meist Kammerrocker, die auch auf den Babyblauen Seiten keine Unbekannten sind. Daniel Denis (Univers Zero) und Roger Trigaux (Present, Univers Zero) repräsentieren die Väter der Bewegung, Jan Kuijken (Louise Avenue, Fukkeduk) und Geert Waegeman (Cro Magnon) dann die nächste Generation. Die Namen der restlichen Tonsetzer tauchen wohl das erste Mal auf den BBS auf, darunter der des belgischen Minimal-Avantgade-Urgesteins Wim Mertens, bewegen sie sich doch vornehmlich in jazzigen oder klassischen Klanggefilden.

Mit leicht reduzierter Besetzung, es gibt nur noch ein hochlagiges Streichinstrument, rocken sich Aranis wie eh und je auf druckvolle Art und Weise durch die 12 Nummern, wie immer fast ausschließlich auf akustischen Instrumenten. Perkussion kommt im Gegensatz zum Vorgänger (siehe "RoqueForte") nicht zum Einsatz, wobei es allerdings durchaus die eine oder andere perkussive Einlage gibt (in Wouter Vandenabeeles "Le Feu" z.B.), wenn die Körper der Instrumente für ebendieses eingesetzt werden. In Wim Mertens' "Gentlemen of Leisure" gibt es zudem getragen-gezogene Touch-Guitarklänge von Trey Gunn.

In stilistischer Hinsicht hat sich die Musik von Aranis natürlich kaum verändert. Auch "Made In Belgium" bietet den charakteristischen Acoustic Chamber Rock, den man von den Belgiern kennt. Das Album wurde ja geradezu dazu aufgenommen, diesem ein Denkmal zu setzten. Und das ist durchaus gelungen. Die vielen Köche sorgen hier einmal dafür, dass der Klangbrei ausgesprochen schmackhaft, will sagen abwechslungsreich und farbig geraten ist. Sehr rhythmische, fast harte Nummern - Jan Kuijkens kerniges "Nonchalance" (welch grandioser Einstieg!), oder Roger Trigaux zeuhlig-sperriges "Ersatz" (im Original auf "Le poison qui rend fou" zu finden) - stehen neben lockeren Tongemälden (Arne Van Dongens "Where is Grommit" z.B.), schon fast klassisch zu nennendem Kammerrock (die beiden Stücke der Aranis-Mitglieder), minimalistisch-repetiven, aber nie langweiligen Exkursen (die beiden Nummern von Mertens) und folkigen Avant-Tanzstücken (z.B. "Viaggio fra due fini" von Dick van der Harst oder der Beitrag von Daniel Denis).

"Made In Belgium" ist eine ausgesprochen kurzweilige Angelegenheit, die jedem Fan des Belgischen Kammerrocks und natürlich all jenen, die herausfinden möchten worum es sich denn dabei handelt, sehr zu empfehlen ist!

Gerald Van Waes- okt.'11

I have listened a couple of times to this album so that I could understand the creativity behind composition a bit better.

Like the previous album, a composition builds up brilliantly and attractively in about 4 tracks. In this album this is like a classical music chamber music composition with a theme based upon a complex rhythm evolving over these sections with different accents and logical changes ending with a quiet flute led theme.

After that, the basic theme, instead of evolving immediately to a second part, is repeated again into a more minimal edition. The rhythm foundation is simplified and the musical foundation of the composition has a lighter form which is chamber-like music that turned into a more minimalist form, closer to a more popular music format. The contributions of guest drummer David Kerman are sparse, like small logical commissioned accents. On the next track the foundations then evolves further into a lyrical and swinging part, with a few leads by the, for this theme, very fitting accordion. This evolves further with happy swinging rhythmic changes, into a new interesting variation.

Only near the end the most recognisable basic core theme returns once more shortly, like a song theme reminder, to complete and finish the score. Like a bis number at a concert a hidden 12th track is added after some minute of silence, with one more variation a bit lost in time.

Avestin- okt.'11

Aranis, the Flemish ensemble led by double-bassist Joris Vanvinckenroye, keep on evolving on their fourth album, RoqueForte, released on the fantastic Italian label, Altr0ck. While the first two albums provided beautiful chamber music with strong rhythmic backbone and some folk-ish tendencies, the third album presented more ambiance as well as vocalization. In this album, they are joined four guests, Ward De Vleesschouwer (piano), Stefan Wellens (viola), Pierre Chevalier from Present and Univers Zero (piano) and Dave Kerman from 5UU's, Thinking Plague and various other projects (drums and percussions). You'd think that adding drumming to their music would change their sound dramatically, but that is not the case at all. Dave Kerman's drumming is subtle and not dominative and mingles perfectly with the rest of the instruments. In fact, it sounds as if the percussions were always a part of the band's sound.


The sound is more edgy, rough, raw and yet still as elegant as ever. They have veered into territories covered by Univers Zero and Present, i.e. a darker and more brooding style and atmosphere; but they have not lost their identity, their sound and charm. Indeed, the Aranis personality is renewed here in this extended lineup. RoqueForte shows the group in their usual punctual playing and elaborate compositions, yet with a new direction and somewhat different approach, showing their strive to evolve as a musical entity.


The music here, while as rhythmic as before, seems more intent creating delicate but ominous ambiance. Take the opening track, Roque for instance. While they don't forsake melody for texture, they do sounds as if more intent on evoking certain mysterious and eerie qualities. I think this piece presents a well thought-out and executed balance between the melodic and the textural side of Aranis. In support of this notion, I'll mention that the album contains 4 short pieces named Ade I to IV which all seem to serve the same purpose as I mentioned above.


All of this is not to say that they don't craft any more tunes. In fact, the tunes found here are still as gorgeous as ever. Take the third track, Past for instance. In it you will find faint accordion playing with the flute strolling higher above it, the two accompanied by the piano and percussions, all together painting a magical and moving piece. The dynamics of this piece are very well done; each instrument wisely set in a proper volume and all of them move together as a whole up and down, louder and weaker until a climatic end. Indeed, the Past never sounded better.


Aranis also provide us with two lengthy compositions here. While they did this before, (Zilezi from the first album), this is not a commonality for Joris to compose pieces of this length for the group. The two pieces, named Noise and Naise, are stunning pieces in their beauty and arrangements. The flute has a lead role in Noise and its delicate sound clashes with the violin creating tension, all the while supported by the menacing double bass and the accordion. In this piece we also hear perhaps the most prominent drumming section on the album (the other tracks being Naise and Tissim), but not in the way you might think; a beating on the drums, in pattern and conjuction with the double bass and piano, create the intimidating canvas for the flute, violin and accordion to paint their lines and circles. This piece is a superb example of Aranis' current sound and of how they've developed since their first album. Again, this is a good example of the balance between melody and ambiance in Aranis' music. There is not a dull moment in this piece, not a wasted note. It all comes together in an enchanting fashion to a hair-raising conclusion.


An interesting piece comes in the form of Tissim. An aggressive composition, fast and even furious sounding at times. There is a remarkable interplay between the piano providing the basic pattern and rhythm along with the drumming (which are a little below it), the accordion with its own theme and the flute playing overhead. At times it sounds harmonious only to change moments later to a chaotic-like musical battlefield, it concludes in a recurring theme being played until end while the lead instruments have their "fight".


RoqueForte is a superb offering from Aranis, another wonderful achievement from a band that seems intent on progressing their sound. If you liked Aranis' previous releases, you definitely should get this as well. If you're new to Aranis and would like to try them out, I find this is a good entry point and you could then work your way backwards. As there are a lot of nuances, quieter parts and overall many intricacies, I recommend listening attentively and on headphones.

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Copyright 2017 - Maarten Lambrecht