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Tuxedomoon Vapour Trails Review

Album. Released 2007.  

BBC Review

Avant gardists-turned jazz fusionists return after a lengthy spell.

Martin Longley 2007

Although Tuxedomoon originated from San Francisco, they all moved to Holland, then Belgium in the early 1980s, at the height of their cultish popularity. Originally part of the Ralph Records/Residents axis of strangeness they now occupy a jazzier niche.

Yet geographically everything's gone even stranger, as this decade has found them scattered across Mexico, Greece and the USA, with only trumpeter, Luc Van Lieshut, remaining in Brussels. The band's other three members are longer-serving, with Blaine L. Reininger (violin, guitar, laptop), Steven Brown (reeds 'n' keys) and Peter Principle (bass) being the creators of the classic Half Mute and Desire albums. This scattering has led to cross-ocean file-transmission, which might be one reason why their songs are so swirlingly layered, so rich with thickened textures.

In recent times, many solo projects have surfaced, and Tuxedomoon have refined their image as movie soundtrackers, without necessarily being involved in an actual filmic project. This is the way their music sounds anyway, infused with the exotic melancholia of Euro-isolation, even if this might not, in reality, exist in the real domain. Particularly since the smoking ban. When there's a vocal, it's often in a different language to the last, spread in-between instrumental stretches that are pulsing with Principle's tarry basslines, webbed with spectral clarinet or saxophone phrases, and crowned by speckles of muted trumpet.

Sometimes, Tuxedomoon can't escape a Berlin-era Bowie coldness, but mostly they're proud displayers of a diverse collection of influences that end up combining to create something entirely their own. They still possess a 1980's vocabulary, but that doesn't have to be such a retro stance nowadays, particularly when re-invented via laptoppery. To celebrate thirty years of loveable strangeness, Tuxedomoon are also releasing 77o7 tm, a box set of their finest hours, but Vapour Trails shows them to still be a force to be reckoned with.

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