13 (Igloo Records)

Flat Earth Society

Released February 13, 2013

AllMusic Favorite Jazz Albums 2013






Make no mistake: Flat Earth Society is the boldest big band in Belgium. Not in the traditional meaning of the word, but simply because there are 15 of them. The influences in this not very traditional big band are varied.
The word eclectic might give the band pimples, but it’s hard to describe this exuberant music any other way. Basically, there is no musical vocabulary to describe the chemical reactions or culinary arts. 13 years after starting, the desire to play is still intact as can be seen by the latest offspring released on the Iglectic imprint of Igloo Records – the label that welcomed Peter Vermeersch’s first album Maximalist! 25 years ago.

13 is a round number according to Flat Earth Society and so it’s a jubilee year! We raise the flag and sing our song. On our new album, which we conveniently called “13”, we serve you our usual unusual portion of gas, chaos & chazz. The 13th album contains 13 new pieces, some more instrumental than the other. The musical journey defies varying landscapes and weather conditions, the orchestra remains ever fresh and unshaven, the music is our pocketknife and compass, the words are of a profoundly deep depth. The CD industry will completely revitalize.

Track Listing:

1. Experiments in the Revival of Organisms (Peter Vermeersch) 06:33

2. Sneak Attack of the Sponges (Peter Vermeersch) 03:52

3. Patsy (Peter Vermeersch / John Watts 05:13

4. Ffwd (Peter Vermeersch) 04:24

5. Six Pine Trees (Peter Vermeersch) 03:58

6. Stoptime Rag (Scott Joplin) 03:51

7. Raincheck (Peter Vermeersch) 11:36

8. Intersections (Tom Dissevelt) 04:27

9. Goat’s Wool Without Abbas (Peter Vermeersch) 06:34

10. Betwixt & Between (Peter Vermeersch) 04:04

11. Unconditional Lucifer (Peter Vermeersch / John Watts) 04:39

12. Meet Luke Devereaux (Peter Vermeersch) 05:27

13. Domination of Black (Wallace Stevens / Peter Vermeersch) 07:28


Peter Vermeersh: keyboards, saxophone, vocals (7, 13)

Stefaan Blancke: saxophone, trombone

Benjamin Boutreur: saxophone

Berlinde Deman: tuba

Bart Maris: trumpet

Michel Mast: saxophone

Marc Meeuwissen: trombone

Kristof Roseeuw: double bass

Luc Van Lieshout: trumpet

Peter Vandenberghe: keyboards, piano

Bruno Vansina: flute, baritone sax

Teun Verbruggen: drums

Pierre Vervloesem: guitar

Wim Willaert: accordion, keyboards

Tom Wouters: clarinet, vibes

John Watts: voice (3, 11)

Recorded October 15, 2009, at Studio Totos, Brussels; The Academy Of Music, Ghent

Producer: Peter Vermeersch

Recorded by Marc Weyts, Walter De Niel, Wannes Gonnissen

Mixed and Mastered by Pierre Vervloesem

Artwork: Marc Meeuwissen


Celebrating their 13th anniversary, the world’s craziest big band Flat Earth Society released their 13th album, the 13-track 13, in February 2013. They also embarked on a 13-date CD release tour. Perhaps you’re wondering how many musicians play on 13. The answer: 15. Thankfully, the album’s overarching numerical concept didn’t extend to tampering with the lineup, a good idea because this number of musicians is just about perfect. Still, be forewarned that bandleader/reedman Peter Vermeersch sometimes writes big-band music intended to accompany, say, a movie featuring a living severed dog’s head. If that sounds grotesque, take comfort in the near certainty that the 1940 Soviet film Experiments in the Revival of Organisms, for which Vermeersch composed new music heard as the opening track here, is a fake. The film depicts an alleged experiment in which a decapitated dog’s head was kept alive and responded to various stimuli; approaching this as pure propaganda, FES have provided suitable mad-scientist music over 60 years later. The rather cartoony intro of stop-start tuba, brass, vibes, and accordion suggests the busy activities of important men in lab coats, and soon baritone saxophonist Bruno Vansina is jamming out over the full ensemble’s powerfully grooved-up backing. But wait! A sudden voice-over from British geneticist J.B.S. Haldane proclaims the experiment’s authenticity, provoking a suitably discordant response from keyboardist Peter Vandenberghe, his hands hitting the keys like a big “What?!” As the band quickly shifts to a tense and escalating 5/4 jazz-rock vamp, Vandenberghe unleashes one of his overdriven mutant Rhodes-voiced solos as the full ensemble gradually engulfs him. It’s FES at their most…enlivened.

Another soundtrack project for this cinematic big band is excerpted in the 11-and-a-half-minute “Raincheck,” with Vermeersch’s music written to accompany Regen, Joris Ivens’ 1929 short abstract film of rain falling on Amsterdam — the CD’s back cover provides a URL for viewing the film online and instructions on syncing the audio and video. Tom Wouters’ ringing vibraphone atmospherically mirrors raindrops in puddles and Vandenberghe’s low organ growl and guitarist Pierre Vervloesem’s roaring, swooping sustained guitar ominously foreshadow the coming deluge before the band takes off with hurricane-force freneticism, including Vermeersch’s entertainingly overwrought vocal (“Drip! Drip! Drip!”) suggesting near panic at the sight of rainwater running down a windowpane. Elsewhere, prepare yourself for straight-up high-octane swing (“Sneak Attack of the Sponges”), a noir-ish collaboration with Fischer-Z multimedia poet/vocalist John Watts (“Patsy”), a Middle Eastern-flavored excerpt from the Zilke “existential variety farce” (“Goat’s Wool Without Abbas”), chopped-up Scott Joplin (“Stoptime Rag”), a reboot of FES antecedent X-Legged Sally’s furious 20th century schizoid jazz with Vervloesem and drummer Teun Verbruggen in a textured noise assault (“Ffwd”), and even hyper-swing in the face of existential dread (“Domination of Black,” the concluding track with lyrics from the Wallace Stevens poem), along with a few calmer interludes. 13 is indeed a celebration — of the omnivorous imagination of Peter Vermeersch and the musicians who enthusiastically tackle anything he throws at them.

Dave Lynch (AllMusic)