Marble Sounds, Alter Schlachthof, Eupen/B, November 1st 2018

It is that time of the year again and we are being tortured by the holiday tunes on radio. Well many of them are pretty atrocious. Those songs that are actually quite touching and warming your soul, are sometimes not even intended as Christmas songs. Among them you’ll find “Leave A Light On” by Marble Sounds from Brussels, Belgium – written originally as a lullaby. “Leave A Light On” was the very song that introduced me to Marble Sounds and I have not looked back since. A while back, I had the opportunity to interview Pieter Van Dessel, Marble Sounds songwriter and frontman. Yes, I have always planned to put the text of that interview up on this blog (which came into being later) but never got round to it but there is the audio of it. Much of what Pieter had to say, probably is true for Marble Sounds now. So, one day in the not so faraway future:-)

Including that time, I happened to see Marble Sounds play live four times. Last night, Marble Sounds performed at Alter Schlachthof, Eupen, Belgium, touring their latest, fourth album: “The Advice To Travel Light”. For those of you who are not familiar with Marble Sounds, see an earlier review here and know this:

Marble Sounds hail from Brussels and consist of Pieter Van Dessel on vocals, guitar and keyboards, Gianni Marzo on guitar and pedal steel guitar, Brecht Plasschaert on keyboards,  Frederik Bastiaensen on bass and
Mattijs Vanderleen  on drums, percussion, glockenspiel and marimba.

Their songs would be ranging from the very quiet, contemplative to the layered, louder and big finale songs, always perfectly composed and performed – not surprising that since many members would be in the music production business / radio / TV business in their day jobs. After their third album “Tatou” which was a foray into orchestral music with strings, flutes etc. and Pieter van Dessel mostly at the piano, “The Advice To Travel Light” on the one hand follows that advice and is stripped down again, on the other hand, in particular live, I saw a band rocking and whooping and lashing it out and enjoying it.

Marble Sounds, Alter Schlachthof, Eupen/B, November 1st 2018

So there we are at the Alter Schlachthof, Eupen, Belgium, enjoying Thijs Kuijken aka I Am Oak from Utrecht in the Netherlands first who performs solo and acoustically a fine set of tender, fragile songs, using his guitar to replace a whole band and singing in a tenor voice. Thijs seems a bit unsure in which language to address people in the Germany speaking community in Belgium especially since many in the audience had travelled from French and Flemish speaking areas. His thing was not the banter on stage anyway but to play his songs that paint whole landscapes in your mind despite being minimal. I am Oaks demand attention and to go with the flow which is why listening to an I Am Oak album is never like listening to individual songs but a connected experience and intended to be that way. The latest work (the song “Golden Pavillion” after I Am Oak’s fifth album “Our Blood” (Snowstar Records/2016) of Thijs was written in Japan and this brings us to Marble Sounds who walk on stage about twenty minutes after I Am Oak’s dreamy set. Marble Sounds are indeed big in Japan and it is only there, unfortunately, where you can obtain a very special edition of Marble Sounds works.

Marble Sounds, Alter Schlachthof, Eupen/B, November 1st 2018

We are in for a treat: For about ninety minutes Marble Sounds present their melancholic and yet not depressing songs, nicely alternating between the sweetest, quiet tunes past the sing-along numbers to the ones that I possibly like best: The tracks that start out harmlessly and spiral into a frenzy, a hypnotic wall-of-sound. There is no doubt that Marble Sounds are perfectionists plus the big show on stage is not their thing but not for a second the connection to the audience is broken and the atmosphere is one of warmth and cordiality. Marble Sounds seem to enjoy the show themselves and I find it lovely how the band members are smiling at each other when some part of a song is turning out particularly well.

Marble Sounds, Alter Schlachthof, Eupen/B, November 1st 2018

It helps that Pieter van Dessel is not stuck behind the piano but is at the front playing guitar (as one encore we have Pieter doing a solo piece on the acoustic guitar) and that Gianno Marzo is an ace guitarist, Brecht and Frederik know their jobs perfectly well and Mattijs is one heck of a drummer who knows a thing or two melting rhythm with melody. A wonderful addition to the live performance is Renée Sys who also lends her amazing voice and well-timed harmonies to the latest two albums. And of course Gianni’s newish toy, the pedal steel. That touch of wistful Americana sound goes very well with Marble Sounds songs.

Marble Sounds, Alter Schlachthof, Eupen/B, November 1st 2018

After ninety minutes choc-a-bloc -and every note perfect (well, I think, what would I know) – with songs from the latest album plus all the well-known songs of the its three predecessors and two encores, Marble Sounds thank kindly and literally dash to the merch stand to speak to the fans.

A Marble Sounds concert is always a cherished occasion in its warmth and perfection to make you forget past and looming troubles, but this one stood out. For those who thought likewise there was an extra treat: The organisers at the venue and most like the band themselves as well had made it possible that all ticket holders can enjoy Marble Sounds once more at Muziekgieterij in Maastricht / Netherlands two days later.

Marble Sounds & Precious Few Gig Review

Marble Sounds from Belgium are currently on tour mostly presenting songs from their new album “Tautou”. If you want to know more about the history of Marble Sounds and “the ins and outs” of the band, you can also refer to an interview with Pieter van Dessel, head of the band, here on this blog. And here comes the Marble Sounds & Precious Few Gig Review!

Marble Sounds are: Pieter Van Dessel – vox, guitar, keys Gianni Marzo – guitar, vox Frederik Bastiaensen – bass Mattijs Vanderleen – drums Brecht Plasschaert – keyboards.

They have released one EP and three albums so far, which they kindly described to fans yesterday as follows:

EP A Painting Or A Spill (no longer available as CD or album as only 500 were pressed at the start of their making music together).

Album 1 Nice Is Good (2010, rounding up their earlier work of a couple of years, mostly folky songs)

Album 2 Dear Me, Look Up (2013, mostly poppier songs (not without the typical underlying Marble Sounds’ melancholy) and containing their most famous songs up to date – even though these might be eclipsed by the songs from the new album)

Album 3 Tautou (2016, their latest and most progressed, most intricate album. The slow tunes ever more melancholy, the rockier ones turning into psych guitar crescendos, often accompanied by strings).

A couple of weeks back I happened to witness Marble Sounds playing to a rapt audience with a string orchestra in a sold out venue. They also easily sell out the Anxienne Belgique in Brussels. In Germany they are not so well-known as yet, so I had the chance to see them in the small venue Musikbunker in Aachen, Germany. How on earth they managed to cram all their equipment on stage, remains an unsolved logistical mystery to me but there we go. They did.

Supported by duo Precious Few (Barbara and Chris) from Bonn, Germany, who rendered a beautiful set of slow, quiet, dark songs telling everyday life’s stories with Barbara’s powerful voice (not unlike Nico’s and PJ Harvey’s) and Chris’ competent fine guitar work. Sometimes Barbara grabs a melodica and emphasises the wistfulness of the songs.

Marble Sounds & Precious Few Gig Review

Being ever so slightly biased, for me it is a foolproof recommendation to be personally invited by David Gedge of The Wedding Present to join him on tour. Have a listen to their new album “Tales”.

Lovely set if somewhat spoiled by the fact (here I go again) that some concert goers seem to ignore the support act and even more, feel disturbed in their ever ongoing natter by the performance. Aargh.

Marble Sounds came on without further ado and not much adornment and presented us the following songs:

Present, These Paintings Never Dry, The First Try, The Little Lows, A New Breeze, The Time To Sleep, Set The Rules, My Friend, The Ins And Outs, K.V., Tout Et Partout, How It’s Going To End

There was time for an encore and before that the audience were rendered beautiful live versions of the songs, masterly presented – every note, every sound sat perfectly – many of them ending to my great joy in fantastic guitar excursions by Gianni Marzo (who also, as I only found out yesterday plays with another great Belgian band: Isbells.

What comes across live even more than on record, is the fact how these already perfectionist musicians have progressed into perfect control of the music they play. They almost blindly pull the strings (and the heartstrings). However professional they have become, the feeling did not get lost under way.

One of the highlights for me was “Tout Et Partout” from Marble Sounds’ third album “Tautou” which has a hypnotising beat.

Speaking of beat: However much Pieter Van Dessel as the singer, pianist, guitarist and songwriter (even though this time round the album has been more of a collaborative affair and he actually enjoyed letting go) and Gianni Marzo as the guitarist are in the foreground, they could not do it without the unobtrusive, perfectly harmonising support of Frederik, Mattijs and Brecht.

All of them were spending a lot of time with their fans afterwards and they were kindly fulfilling all the wishes and answering all the questions. Down to earth guys and the audience loved it. Thank you Marble Sounds and Precious Few!

Marble Sounds & Precious Few Gig Review

Little Waves Festival 2016, Genk

Genk, a town in Belgian Limburg, near the border to the Netherlands, might live in the shadow of neighbour Hasselt sometimes a little. Hasselt is known to many music lovers as host to the huge alternative Pukkelpop Festival.

Genk was one of the centres for coal mining in Belgium…sadly the last mine was closed, so was a big branch of a car manufacturer. But Genk has loads to offer: Friendly people, a national park, a lovely city centre, interesting former mining sites, an open air museum, parks, playgrounds and on and on.

The Winterslag mine was transformed into a cultural centre – the C-Mine cultuurcentrum which offers a very arty and interactive tour through the old mine – there are workshops, courses, events in all areas of art and there is Little Waves, an intimate, smallish indoor festival in the impressive former mine building featuring quieter music by local, national and international artists.

This year Little Waves will take place on April 9th, starting at 6.30 pm CET, tickets still available but selling like hotcakes a very reasonable price.

http://www.c-minecultuurcentrum.be/programma/view/id/432/h/programma/c/Muziek

What’s stopping you to see these artists, I ask you?

Glints

Otherworldly hiphop from Antwerp

Le Colisée

Magical music from Brussels

Milo Meskens

They call him the Jeff Buckley from Deinze/B but he is so much more than that!

Glenn Cloes

He says: Back Where My World Began!
Rarely a song title has spoken more for an album.
It’s been quite a journey but now it’s time to put my face in the light.

We are all waiting to see you Glenn!

Astronaute

Have seen them before at La Truite Magique Festival two years ago and they are well worth seeing again. Or for the first time! Astronaute is Myrthe Luyten’s solo project and she hails from Hasselt.

Stef Kamil Carlens

Stef’s band is Zita Swoon and he also co-founded dEUS with Tom Barman, so really excited to see him perform.

William Fitzsimmons

William Fitzsimmons has just released Charleroi: Pittsburgh Volume 2 and what better way than see him perform in a former mine building. Beautiful, beautiful music…

Damien Jurado

You have indeed read correctly. Damien Jurado is coming too and is bringing his masterpiece “Visions Of Us On The Land” with him.

Villagers

Och, just look here. You know that Conor O’ Brien and his band are delivering a wonderful set on this tour. Great locality to see them again.

Marble Sounds

And here is another great band from Belgium, turning up with The Chamber Orchestra of Belgium. Marble Sounds have just released their third album Tautou and will end Little Waves 2016 in true style.

Read more about them here in this blog.