[Reviewed by Damiano Lanzi]
The eponymous debut EP by this Belgian jazz-rock quartet had already made a favorable impression on me when I reviewed it some time ago, so I’ve been glad to listen to the full album too. The thing that I loved about Nordmann were the great melodic themes, always tasteful and refined, but also strong and effective. These kinds of themes are present also in “Alarm”, but when the first track begins, you immediately understand that there are more ingredients into the mix here.
“Alarm” opens with a dirty overdriven bass riff, followed by the guitar. If it wasn’t for the sax that kicks in shortly after, you would assume that you’re listening to a stoner album. In the middle of the song the sax imitates the sound of an alarm in the stillness of the night, and then the other instruments join in with an almost punk rhythm, subsequently dissolved by the fusion guitar solo and then by the drum solo to end into a pure jazz vein. It’s evident how the band, having more time at their disposal in the full length formula, are looking for more complexity and for a natural evolution into the songs. This approach allows them to cross different genres and inspirations fluently, without degenerating their peculiar sound. Other good examples are “El Nino”, with its wonderful and soothing western/surf atmosphere; or “Ohm”, where the frantic prog-metal bass riff gives ground to an old style jazz improvisation, and then again to the frenzy of the whammy guitar solo. Or again we have “Lights”, built on a guitar loop on which the ensemble builds an enchanting nocturne theme.
What was deducible in the EP, and that here becomes unequivocally clear, is that these guys, despite being young, have gained extraordinary experience playing live, and are thus now in complete control of their output and the interplay between the instruments. Just listen to “Pfut”, when towards the end the initial theme is played again on a completely different rhythm: the contrast is exciting. Even in the most sparse pieces, like the haunting soundtrack “Paling”, you have the impression that every player knows exactly in which direction the song should be carried and the alchemy between the band members works perfectly. All this is exemplified in the final track ,“Nightwork”, where a relaxed theme played by the sax and guitar arpeggios gradually emerges from a noisy improvisation, as if two completely different songs were juxtaposed and mixed together. The whistle in the end makes you think about a passer-by at night in an old noir movie, and closes the album in a melancholic atmosphere.