February 18, 2020
The Bureau of Atomic Tourism
Searching for the vehicle that will transport you to the uncharted territory where the tentacles of Jazz-Rock fusion intersect with the expanse of pure improvisation? Then your conduit of choice won’t be a spaceship but a boat: The Bureau of Atomic Tourism (B.O.A.T.). With a trans-European and American crew, this vessel has been involved with these types of voyages since 2011. Now like the evolving crews that have served on Starship Enterprise, advanced recruitment has resulted in a new simpatico sextet that interprets 14 compositions in a unique fashion.
Unlike Star Trek however, B.O.A.T.’s lead actors remain the same. Adroit Belgian drummer Teun Verbruggen, who has played in aggregations like the Flat Earth Society is the band’s Captain Kirk. In the Dr. Spock role fellow Belgium Jozef Dumoulin, who brings sophisticated to the use of a Fender Rhodes in bands with Ellery Eskelin, and others, and who composed all of Eden’s tunes. The other crew members are Swedish trumpeter Magnus Broo, known for work with Atomic, Norwegian bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, also in Atomic and other groups, French guitarist Julien Desprez is part of the Mopcut trio, and American tenor saxophonist Jon Irabagon, who has worked with everyone from Mary Halvorson to Dave Douglas.
Nonhierarchical, B.O.A.T. functions like a well-drilled squadron with no one member taking more than his share of musical territory. This strategy begins with the speedy detonation that is “De Teun Van Eden” the introductory track and is completed with “De Teun Van Eden (Reprise)”, its equally frenetic, but fraternal twin which completes the suite. On the first tune, descending trumpet and keyboard patterns set up the theme which is quickly elaborated with Irabagon’s burble slurring and a drums solo break from Verbruggen that’s half Gene Krupa and half John Bonham. Sound barrages don’t tell the whole story however. After a brief pause Broo adds a touch of beauty with capillary vibrations that echo alongside electric piano oscillations and reed smears, with the composition wrapped up with thick drum beats that echo after the track ends. A processed buzz completes the “(Reprise)”, linking it to the first tune, with horizontal horn unison and drum rattles standing out during the theme’s elaboration.
Beyond that, the B.O.A.T. is most buoyant when tracks include enough deck space for tone expansion. There are tunes like “B Minor Blues” that could fit an arena rock set with distorted guitar slides, cross pulsed drumming and horn slurs. There are ones like “Two Part Oven in Thin Eleven” which varies call-and-response challenges among horns in broken counterpoint with a guitar drone and theatrical skittering from the Fender Rhodes. And there’s “Passed Present”, the most experimental piece, which among tick-tock drumming and trumpet flutters introduces sampled brass fanfares and children’s voices that mix with the other instruments before splintering into sound shards and a final buzz. Other tracks don’t fare as well since their briefness doesn’t allow enough time for proper resolution, even if interesting ideas are initially advanced.
In retrospect Eden may not fully realize the paradise for which it’s named. But it gets pretty close. What’s reflected on this trip suggests that B.O.A.T. reaching that professed utopia may be very close.
Track Listing: 1. De Teun Van Eden 2. Love and Things 1 3. Enjoying G'S Presence 4. Two Part Oven in Thin Eleven 5. Love and Things 2 6. Passed Present 7. Search Ends When Sharing Starts 8. Ifrit 9. Video Interlude 1 10. Snub Glee Line 11. B Minor Blues 12.Video Interlude 2 13. Love and Things 3 14. De Teun Van Eden (Reprise)
Personnel: Magnus Broo (trumpet); Jon Irabagon (tenor saxophone); Jozef Dumoulin (Fender Rhodes); Julien Desprez (guitar); Ingebrigt Håker Flaten (bass) and Teun Verbruggen (drums)