If you wish for an album to elevate your spirits, if you want happy and jovial music, if you want groove, excitement, jazziness and a bit of eclecticism, you’re in the right “field”.
Humble Grumble from Belgium started off as the folk group Dearest Companion in 1996. As this band dissipated, Humble Grumble came into being and have released three albums thus far, Flanders Fields being their first on the fabulous Italian AltrOck label. The lineup here consists of 8 members with a big cast of guest musicians. The album has 11 tracks on it, two of which are instrumentals, though you’ll find a lot of their exciting instrumental prowess on all their songs.
Before addressing specifically the songs on here, the music on the Flanders Fields is as I said, of a positive and uplifting nature. It reminded me of the likes of Frank Zappa, Miriodor, Panzerpappa and Caravan. There are diverse styles meshed up together and confronted, silliness and humour, coolness and grooviness, jazziness and rock; all are well put to use in here.
In Sirens Dance, the instrumental piece opening the album, there are intricate structures and rhythms are the core; there is constant interchanging patterns and directions in their music but not such that would make you lose direction or interest, but rather one that will get you excited and glued to the album to hear their spinning musical tales.
In the following song, Aging Backwards, reminds me of Caravan with its coolness and mellowness but then proceeds into wonderful high energy guitar soloing as the song develops into an instrumental segment.
The following song, the title track, starts on a slightly “blue” and sadder note, but gorgeous melody, with Gabor singing and female backing vocals. It then “deteriorates” into their typical “insane” and organized chaotic form. I absolutely love the marimba and vibraphone used there. The song picks up pace and develops through interchanging sections and sax soloing upon the marimba and bass playing.
The band offers a groovy jazzy tune in Sleepless Night, a silly and entertaining song in Horny, an exciting and breezy jazz-rock song with lovely flute solo in Little Bird, a bi-polar tune in Duck On A Walk… I think you get the picture. It’s as good, if not better from here on.
What I find lovely about this album, aside form the catchy and refreshing song-writing, is the lovely sound of it, due to the wide selection of instruments and their interactions. The saxophone and clarinets alongside the marimba and vibraphone add an exotic and splendid vibe that works extremely well. Moreover, the bass and drums give such a propulsive groove to the songs that is hard to not shake your head to. The vocalizations top off the rich sound with soft male and female voices.
The Flanders Fields are a vast spacey place; where amalgams of styles come together; where energy is put to efficient use, tunneled in various directions and manipulated into a variety of possible opportunities; a place where one feels as if freed on a huge landscape and is being tossed around by the changing scenery, the shifting of the musical geography. This album is filled with well-written compositions, exciting song structures, top-notch musicianship and above all fun.