dikeman / noble / serries

THE NY CITY JAZZ RECORD reviews

DIKEMAN/NOBLE/SERRIES – Obscure Fluctuations (LP/CD, Trost Records)

“U.S. musicians frequently expatriate to Europe to gain more appreciation and opportunities: think of Benny Carter and Coleman Hawkins in the ‘30s or Steve Lacy and Nathan Davis in the ‘60s. But with the idea of American jazz superiority as outmoded as some aspects of U.S. foreign policy, improvisers are leaving this continent to become part of a vibrant multinational musical culture. Take Wyoming-raised, Amsterdam- based tenor saxophonist John Dikeman. His European- honed dexterity allows him to interact with the best, from Americans Hamid Drake and William Parker to the European crews presented here. These CDs are as planted in the ongoing free jazz genre as an onion is in
the soil. But, as when a harvested onion is peeled, each reveals different aspects of Dikeman’s art.
London-recorded Obscure Fluctuations won’t be obscure to free music devotees. Said fluctuations emanate from the guitar of Belgian Dirk Serries, whose decades-old allegiance to noise, digital and avant rock is tempered with improvisational smarts. Drummer Steve Noble, a British version of Drake with protean experience, completes the trio. On two extended improvisations the band projects musical chiaroscuro, highlighting passages of lightness and dark, delicacy and coarseness, in equal measure. “The Heart Strips Bare” is particularly desiccated. Flat-line reed buzzes and string slaps stream together into a hypnotic narrative as if traversing acres of unvarying desert scenery. Dikeman’s querulous multiphonics are more evident on “From the Assent to Refusal”, as the trio works to a crescendo that attains spectacular son et lumière communication. Noble’s percussion pressure and Serries’ string slashes meld with Dikeman’s petulant cries to produce a squirming, inchoate mass. From then on guitar plinks, cymbal vibrations and reed split-tones slice individual timbres off the narrative, until the piece fades to reassuring concordance.” Ken Waxman/The New York City Jazz Record – USA

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Obscure Fluctuations Reviewed

“Obscure Fluctuations is more like post-war German constructions. Just like animal hides, jagged wires and expanses of found objects like rocks and cinders made up those Teutonic landscapes, so too do Dikeman, Noble and Serries reveal a sonic panorama that that is brutalist and asymmetrical. Serries especially who flirts with enfolding ambient, metal and punk-like string patterning within his solos, strays the furthest from Jazz-like pulses. Buzzing reverb and expressive wide-area flanges characterize his work, with Noble’s percussion patterns ranging from low-key swizzles to high-energy splatters. The drummer also keeps the improvisations as unbalanced as a circus elephant resting on an inflated beach ball. Like ganglia hanging inside an inflamed throat, Dikeman’s processes turns inflamed to flaming, spreading snorts, honks, slurs, smears among guitar picking and cymbal slaps. Despite nearly opaque menace hanging over the narrative, like black clouds gathering over the castle in a filmed medieval drama, connective threads are never lost.

Improvisation doesn’t mean inchoate however. By the penultimate section of the concluding “The Heart Stripes Bare”, percussion rolls and plops plus oscillating guitar amp static are challenged enough by successive waves of reed glossolalia to be shaped into a climatic conclusion. Serries’ folk-style strumming and Noble’s graceful skin pressure allows Dikeman enough time to catch his breath. Atomized melodies briefly forced from a choked throat, signal the interactive and continuous strength of the group and Dikeman’s unshakable vigor.” Jazzword – Canada

ENOLA reviews

DIKEMAN/NOBLE/SERRIES – Live At De Singer (Rijkevorsel, Belgium) Saturday December 12th, 2015.

“De wereld van de vrije improvisatie zit vol verrassingen. Op 2 april trokken John Dikeman, Dirk Serries en Steve Noble voor een paar uur de studio in en het onderonsje belandde prompt op het releaseschema van het Oostenrijkse Trost-label. Het resultaat van die opnames — Obscure Fluctuations — verscheen een tijd geleden. Nu werd het tijd om dat live te herhalen.

Het trio had vier concerten gepland, waarvan dit het laatste was. En het voelde bij momenten ook aan alsof alles er nog eens uit gekwakt moest worden, want de drie speelden twee compacte sets die knetterden met een onbesuisde energie. Twee sets van een goed half uur, wat vrij ongebruikelijk is binnen de jazz en improvisatie, waar een van de ongeschreven regels is dat zo’n sets doorgaans 40-50 minuten duren. Maar waarom zou je niet stoppen als je uitverteld bent, gezegd hebt wat je wil zeggen? Daar komt nog eens bij dat dergelijke abstractie het best tot z’n recht komt in behapbare dosis, zodat je ook als luisteraar op het puntje van je stoel blijft zitten.

Er werd alleszins weinig tijd en energie verspeeld aan ingetogen, aarzelende poespas. Noble en Serries startten met een urgentie die voor een later binnenwandelende bezoeker zou kunnen suggereren dat het om een concertfinale ging. Dat rollende, beweeglijke spel van de drummer was al bekend van de opnames en de concerten die hij hier al speelde (zoals een tijd geleden nog een oplawaai met Peter Brötzmann), maar het was deze keer vooral Serries die meteen alles opengooide en dat kenmerkende geduld achterwege liet. Gewapend met een schroevendraaier en andere attributen begon hij te sleuren en te wringen, raasden de vingers over de gitaarhals, schoot hij nu en dan in een muzikale kramp. Het resulteerde in een stuiterende stroom vol gehuil, gejank en geratel.

De inval van Dikeman was, hoe kan het ook anders, een gepast luidruchtig antwoord, waardoor het trio al zeer snel een vuist maakte die aankwam als een voorhamer. Er waren heel wat momenten waarbij het deed denken aan de noisy, abstracte elementen van Cactus Truck als ze op dreef zijn, al werd hier meer afgeweken van die freejazzkoers. En er werd ook wel gedoseerd, want plots werd ook overgeschakeld naar fluisterniveau en een plaats gegund aan een paar opvallende solomomenten. Zo kon Noble zijn imposante klankcontrole en ritmische drive etaleren en Serries verder terrein verkennen dat afwisselend herinnerde aan werk van gitaarspinnen als Derek Bailey, Manuel Mota en Sonny Sharrock.

Wordt op het album een vrij directe, soms tumultueuze A-kant afgewisseld met een iets ingetogener tweede helft die nauwer aansluit bij de drones-traditie, dan werd dat gisteren aanvankelijk gevolgd. Serries creëerde hypnotiserende loops met een strijkstok (even leek er een viool of sitar aan te pas te komen), waardoor die tweede set aanvankelijk een minder nerveuze, gejaagde teneur had. De muzikanten zaten hier op een nauwer afgelijnd veld, waarbij het vooral Dikeman was die na verloop van tijd te ongedurig werd om er lang te blijven rondhangen. Het gevolg was opnieuw een kleine explosie, al wist Serries die loops na een tijdje opnieuw binnen te smokkelen.

Voor de korte toegift was de saxofonist de voorganger, terwijl de open abstractie van voorheen vervangen werd door een meer ritmische focus, met de gitaar die aangewend werd als een repetitief hamerend instrument. Het trio bevond zich voortdurend in de buitenste regionen van de improvisatie, daar waar frictie, abstractie en dissonantie doodnormaal zijn, maar dat gebeurde wel met variatie, dynamiek en een focus die al die tijd centraal bleef staan. Van verslappende aandacht, op of voor het podium, was geen sprake.” Enola – Belgium

Dalston Sound reviews

DIKEMAN/NOBLE/SERRIES – Obscure Fluctuations (CD/LP, Trost Records)

“John Dikeman is an American saxophonist living in Amsterdam, who plays barefoot and often invites comparison with Peter Brötzmann, which can be a backhanded compliment. This clutch of albums all demonstrate that, while he’s clearly chasing an accommodation with Brötzmann’s legacy and influence, he’s no copycat, being too versatile and tuneful to swallow the rather cartoonish idea of Brötzmannian Machine Gun machismo that does neither artist any favours. Of these three albums, Live at La Resistenza makes that point best, teaming Dikeman as it does with two of Brötzmann’s longstanding collaborators to rather ebullient effect. The other two, Skullduggery and Live at Cafe Oto, recorded back-to-back, are more abrasive and exploratory. Where Cactus Truck – Dikeman’s trio with Jasper Stadhouders and Onno Govaert – plays free jazz with a hardcore influence, Dikeman Noble Serries Trio plays an arthouse variation on the same conceit that takes it closer to drummer Steve Noble’s past work with Æthenor. Their Obscure Fluctuations (Trost Records) was recorded in a single 2.5 hour studio session in April 2015. There’s a point, after an initial squall of overblown sax and all-round intensity fifteen minutes into the first of the album’s two twenty-three-minute cuts, “From Assent to Refusal”, where Dikeman falls silent and Noble expertly turns the gas down to expose Dirk Serries’ rubbed-up wisps and feedback-barbed whips of electric guitar, then rejoins with a new, subtly tribal rhythmic emphasis. Dikeman’s fluid, responsive solo in turn prompts a heated but controlled climax. So far, so alt-orthodox. “The Heart Strips Bare” is more arresting, founded as it is on a grimy, lustral shimmer of soft-scraped contact sounds. Serries’ guitar is the dominant source, but Dikeman’s sensitive breath control and Noble’s expert play of brushes and skin on skins both extend and, by subtle degrees, expand the soundfield. As the smouldering intensifies, Dikeman tempers muted frictions with soft burred exhalations, combining with Serries’ discomfiting abrasions and Noble’s near-subliminal contributions into an oddly particulate drone. Ultimately this concentration of sonics is all burned off in a sudden irruption of agitation, Dikeman’s sax the blue flame of complete combustion. Two such contrasting yet complimentary performances make for an excellent package.”

DIKEMAN/LISLE/SERRIES/WEBSTER – Live at Cafe Oto (CD, Raw Tonk Records)

“The occasion of Serries’ rare London pass-through also yielded the continuous 32:28 improvisation documented by Dikeman Serries Lisle Webster – Live at Cafe Oto (Raw Tonk), recorded 1 April 2015, the night before the Obscure Fluctuations session. Dikeman and drummer Andrew Lisle get things underway with fiery but measured depth-sounding, then Serries clanks metallically into gear just before Colin Webster’s guttural Baritone sax begins to thicken the brew. But a change of mood after only five minutes leaves just the soft, continuous vibratory sound of twinned saxes and thin, contractile threads of metallic guitar; a sound not dissimilar to the textual assiduity of “The Heart Strips Bare”. By 12:52 we’re back to inharmonic, abrasive braying, Lisle imposing a semblance of order with clipped beats. The quartet risk tipping into outright ruckus, but shortly, suddenly, transmute tensions in another breakdown, each taking it in turn to prod and probe at a central well of silence. Then they test each other’s mettle in a standoff ’til the two horns lock, Webster blowing fit to drown out Dikeman’s sour drizzling, but not succeeding: the Cactus Trucker signals that the endgame is nigh with throaty exhortations begetting another loosely combative interlude and a final passage of barbed free-form improv, a four-way of rasping and chafing. Webster is last man standing, taking the set out with a coda of imposingly deep vibrations.” Dalston Sound – UK

Freejazz Blog reviews

DIKEMAN/NOBLE/SERRIES – Obscure Fluctuations (CD/LP, Trost Records)

“****1/2 rating! This trio challenges Serries to face the fiery free jazz improvisation mode of the Peter Brötzmann school. American, Amsterdam-based powerhouse sax player John Dikeman, known for his groups Cactus Truck and Universal Indians, can blow as hard and wild as Brötzmann, but has an open attitude that is genre-blind. British master drummer Steve Noble has performed and recorded with Brötzmann (I Am Where You Are, Trost, 2013), as well with other innovative improvisers as Derek Bailey, Evan Parker and Joe McPhee. Serries performed and recorded with Dikeman in the last year (as a duo on the vinyl-only Cult Exposure, New Wave of Jazz, 2015, and on other live ad-hoc outfits), but it was the first time that he recorded with Noble. This new trio was recorded in studio on April 2015. Dikeman and Noble set the intense, stormy atmosphere on the first piece, “From Assent to Refusal”, from its first seconds. Only after both slow down Serries integrates into the dense, fast interplay with distorted, thorny lines. Slowly he intensifies this mode of confrontational free improvisation, building again its voluminous climax, until it disintegrates again and now the trio unites again  in a tight, rhythmic and fiery free jazz mode. Serries sets the contemplative course of the second piece, “The Heart Strips Bare”, with distant, ambient playing. Noble adds minimal touches on the cymbals that stress the ceremonial atmosphere, while Dikeman opts for gentle, long wails, but the minimalist, conversational tone is kept throughout it until a short eruptive coda.”

FANTOOM – Sluimer (LP, Tonefloat’s New Wave Of Jazz)

“**** rating! Fantoom is a quartet that feature Serries, his wife, autodidact double bass player Martina Verhoeven (who is also a gifted photographer), drummer René Aquarius, and sax player Otto Kokke, both from the Dutch group Dead Neanderthals, with whom Serries played in their Endless Voids project on the 2014 edition of the Incubate festival in Tilburg, Netherlands.  The quartet debut album, a limited-edition vinyl, is a free-improvisation that was recorded in studio in December 2014.  The quartet plays one piece, the 38-minutes “Sluimer”, that revolves around the buzzing bow drone work of Verhoeven and develops organically along this course. Serries minimalist, effects-laden and loops, Kokke sax shrieks shouts and Aquarius patient yet powerful pounding tension building enrich Verhoeven rough, possessed attack with layers of resonating textures. At times this piece sound close to the dramatic sonic rituals of Yodok III, another group of Serries, but the tone here is more dark and direct. “Sluimer” is a sound-poem that its hypnotic intensity is built slowly and methodically by this collective quartet until its inevitable massive, epic climax, and then Verhoeven changes the course and leads the quartet into a quieter, peaceful coda.”

SERRIES/VERHOEVEN/WEBSTER – Cinepalace (LP, Tonefloat’s New Wave Of Jazz)

“*** rating! Serries and his wife and double bass player Martina Verhoeven meet British tenor sax player Colin Webster, who also participated in the Dead Neanderthals’ Endless Voids, for a live improvisation, recorded at the DIY club Cinépalace in Kortrijk, Belgium in May 2015. A month earlier Serries performed with Webster in a quartet that was recorded as Live at Cafe Oto, and released on Webster’s Raw Tonk label. This recording, another limited-edition vinyl, is a 45-minutes piece, titled after the club name. It highlights the highly individual voices of Serries, Verhoeven and Webster and their idiosyncratic improvisation strategies. It begins as an open-ended, quiet and abstract tone when all three searches for his own eccentric course. But patiently this kind of fragile, meditative interplay gels into a close and louder one, as the three still continue to explore their streams of ideas in delicate, parallel courses, occasionally unite for brief and more intense eruptive climaxes.” Freejazz Blog

DIKEMAN/NOBLE/SERRIES

Power trio  John Dikeman (tenor saxophone), Steve Noble (drums) and Dirk Serries (electric guitar) tours from tomorrow on, promoting their OBSCURE FLUCTUATIONS album on Trost Records.

09/12/2015 – 79 sound, cologne – germany – private studio session
(ltd seating max. 30  – reservations : newwaveofjazz@gmail.com)
10/12/2015 – occii, amsterdam – the netherlands
11/12/2015 – volt, sittard – the netherlands
12/12/2015 – de singer, rijkevorsel – belgium – album release show

To celebrate the short tour, visual artist Jan Kees Helms made this fantastic ‘Hitchcockian’ short film.  Enjoy.

 

DIKEMAN/NOBLE/SERRIES reviewed

“Artists from three countries pool their respective talents on this forty-six-minute set from the Vienna, Austria-based Trost label. Laid down at Sound Savers, London on April 2nd, 2015, Obscure Fluctuations pairs American tenor saxophonist John Dikeman, Belgian guitarist Dirk Serries, and English drummer Steve Noble on two long-form improvisations occasionally capable of peeling wallpaper and shaking foundations (apparently the three recorded the two pieces without ever having played together before).

In the liner notes, Guy Peters contrasts the open-mindedness, trust, and respect exemplified by the free playing of the three musicians to the diametric qualities of fear and distrust that different countries’ leaders bring to their interactions. Peters’ point isn’t without merit—there’s certainly room for such a socio-political reading, especially when each musician hails from a different country—though it probably won’t occupy your thoughts for long once the musical storm hits. And it doesn’t take long to do so: two minutes into the opening “From Assent to Refusal,” the three already are operating at full throttle, Dikeman rapidly squealing and honking, Noble violently battering his kit, and Serries unleashing shards and splinters into the air alongside them. The music alternately lurches, wails, and combusts as it works its way through twenty-three minutes, with the guitarist often acting as a stabilizing center that allows the others to play with abandon. At times one of the three drops out and the musicians gather themselves into different configurations in keeping with the improv’s development. The less-tumultuous “The Heart Strips Bare” opens quietly, the three quietly painting the scene with restrained textural gestures, Serries generating creaking noises and Dikeman channeling ghosts, until fourteen minutes along, the saxophonist briefly amps up the energy level before returning again to the subdued pitch.

As loud and noise-laden as the recording sometimes is, it’s not an unrelenting free-for-all. Episodes of contrasting mood and design appear, the music evolving from one sequence to the next at the behest of its creators. I won’t front: the style of music captured on Obscure Fluctuations isn’t entirely to my taste, nor is its first piece the kind of playing situation I most prefer for Serries. I’ve been listening to recordings of his—solo and otherwise—for years now, and this setting, in certain moments, is the most ferocious of all the ones I have on which he performs. That being said, I have the utmost admiration for the guitarist for constantly putting himself into new playing contexts and continually exploring new musical directions. One imagines that a world leader or two could certainly learn from such open-mindedness.Textura – Canada