De Beren Gieren: What Eludes Us

Ghent-based trio uses conventional instruments, electronics and minimalist riffing to produce an antique, surrealist mood


The historic city of Ghent in East Flanders can stake a strong claim as one of Europe’s jazz capitals. With an abundance of next generation artists collaborating across a variety of formations, its openness to experimentation with electronics and bold use of melody and rhythm is very distinct.

Independent label SDBAN Ultra continues to document the scene, and in a roster that includes Condor Gruppe, Echt!, and John Ghost, the Belgian-Dutch trio De Beren Gieren (“The Bear Vultures”) are undoubtedly one of the star attractions.

Enlisting Norwegian producer Jørgen Træen (Jaga Jazzist), What Eludes Us is the trio’s seventh full-length album. Its enigmatic title hints at what’s in store, Træen turning a macro lens onto the music’s barely perceptible surface blemishes and layering them into the mix. Tracks come and go like loosely connected scenes in a portmanteau film, and the trio switches at will between complex formality and total abstraction.

Opening track Papir Freedom has a sense of the absurd about it, all the more apparent when viewing the official video (available online) which charts the journey of a jumbled mass of print material into outer space. Mimic takes us deep inside the piano and is a rhythmic tour de force, while the faux baroque mannerisms of A Loving Stumbler can’t fail to raise a smile. Van Pée is at the centre of the atmospheric I’ll Explain Later, and The Houses is an invigorating blast of electro-jazz. The languid sprawl of Light And Illusions is mildly psychotropic, and the title-track is (perhaps ironically) the one occasion where the group briefly resemble a conventional piano trio.

It’s a wildly unpredictable and utterly joyous set in which Træen’s legendary studio-craft adds an appealing new dimension without in any way constraining the trio’s uncontrollable urge for adventure.

Papir Freedom; Mimic; A Loving Stumbler; Very Important vs. Not Important; The Feline; I’ll Explain Later; The Houses; Light And Illusions; What Eludes Us (44.33)
Fulco Ottervanger (p, kyb, elec); Lieven Van Pée (b, elb, elec); Simon Segers (d, elec). Bergen, no date. 
Sdban Ultra 38