This Bastien Keb article was written by Jake Uchiki-Parker, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Natalie Whitehouse
As the quirkiness of the name would suggest, the debut album by Scottish multi-instrumentalist Bastien Keb stubbornly denies to be pigeon-holed, drawing upon a diverse set of influences, from Alice Coltrane to Tom Waits. The album presents a refreshing and intriguing juxtaposition between the inherently abstract qualities of Electronica (with its innovative sample choice and manipulation) and the timelessness of the Jazz and Soul idioms.
Having sat through and listened to the album without pause, the jarring juxtaposition of styles is striking. The album begins with the piece ‘Blurs’ which acts as a short atmospheric interlude with bebop-like trumpet melodic figures lamenting over a mournful brass drone, the subtle percussion winking and scuttling in the periphery. The predominance of brass and the absence of a strong rhythmic anchor gives ‘Blurs’ an unhinged, airy quality, and one can clearly hear experimental, cosmic vibes reminiscent of early Sun Ra.
By track two however, the artist takes a different approach to stating his musical objective. ‘Down River’ resembles the familiar riff based vocal-melody lead song, with funk inspired rhythmic guitar riffs, trumpet stabs and shades of electric piano. However, despite such strong Funk and R&B vibes, the interesting mix of sampled and acoustic percussion add a subtle nuance to the overall impression of the piece, reminding us that Mr. Keb’s musical output is not so easily labeled. The album appears to follow this pattern, jumping from the abstraction of sample-centric compositions, to pieces with more prominent R&B, Soul and Funk influences.
As one progresses through the album, the contrast becomes more striking. Pieces like ‘Pork Belly’ and ‘Beat Without a Heart’ seethe with a timeless Soul appeal, and are interspersed with such quirky compositions as ‘Peardrops’ and ‘Doodle Bag’, both of which are built on innovative sample manipulation and stilted rhythms, invoking chill hip-hop vibes.
Overall, ‘Dinking In The Shadows of Zizou’ is consummate and successful in its aesthetic objective, reconciling familiar acoustic sounds and compositional devices with the abstract elements of Electronica and other sample based music. However, it perhaps lacks the same strength in terms of narrative. One does not get the sense of progression or journey with the album, it feels too much like a simple collection of pieces showcasing the artist’s intention to rework and fuse genres. No more is this sentiment exemplified by the fact that the entire album ends unusually with a short, abstract miniature (‘Deer’), which somewhat lacks in the way of a closing statement or gesture.
This is however, only a small quibble, as the album overall resembles a truly impressive feat of musicianship and creative vision, with the thematic convergence of genre remaining consistent throughout.
‘Dinking In The Shadows of Zizou’ is out on the 25th September via One-Handed Music.