Flat Earthers hurl themselves over the edge.
Sid Smith 2009
You get a lot of bang for you buck with the sixth album released by Belgium's Flat Earth Society. A cavalcade of extrovert performances erupt from this 14-piece group boasting tuba, trombone, trumpet, clarinet, euphonium, various saxes, keyboards, accordion, electric guitar and a riotous rhythm section in its line-up.
The intriguing album title comes from an anagram of the name of group leader Peter Vermeersch and he guides his top-notch players through the same anarchic territory as their last release, Psychoscout (2006), like some wild-eyed pied piper.
Recalling the madcap ensemble tendencies of Loose Tubes or the wry flourishes of Kurt Weill arranged for a Burlesque house band, every piece shines with exuberant, provocative charts.
Themes and variations jump out on top of each in a series of frenetic cat and mouse ambushes with the intricately scripted cartoonish violence of one of Scott Bradley's more fantastical Tom & Jerry scores.
Occasionally Vermeersch dials down the mayhem long enough to allow moments of exquisite sensitivity to be revealed, allowing the listener to pause for breath. Yet too often these are swamped in an avalanche of blaring horns and instrumental comedy routines.
This is a pity because whilst you can't fault the overall playing and inventive air, the hyperactive mania of the arrangements provokes a certain fatigue after a while. Nevertheless big, bold and frequently not so much zany as just plain daft, full marks for the full-on gusto with which these Flat Earthers hurl themselves over the edge.