maandag 25 april 2016

It Takes A While. The Rhythm Junks

Someone is pondering over something here. What, we may never know or it could take a while. Whatever the cover is trying to tell us, The Rhythm Junks have released it's fourth album and all the previous ones have gone ignorantly by me.

The Rhythm Junks' central man is Steven De bruyn, harmonica player par excellence. As things go in Belgium active in other bands, like El Fish, and collaborations. This band is around since 2004 and started when El Fish stopped. At least for a while. The harmonica is all over the record, giving it a blues feel, where the music certainly is alternative rock with influences from all around the world.

The Rhythm Junks are a trio. Jasper Hautekiet (bass) and Tony Gyselinck, dubbed of the best jazz drummers of Belgium. There's no jazz on It Takes A While, although 'Hunters Of The Heart' has a jazzy undertone with its shuffled drumskins. Toots Tielemans could have played the song. For a band that has no guitarist, no keyboardplayer, no horns, strings, etc. there are many interesting sounds coming out of this record. De bruyn plays the omnichord, whatever that may be and the bass works with some nice pedal effects.

What I like a lot about It Takes A While is that songs can go anywhere. The Rhythm Junks work with rhythms and sounds, while songstructures are essentially game for variation. At heart a song is drums and bass, with De bruyn and Hautekiet singing (harmonies). Reproducing some of the songs live is impossible in a trio setting. Singing and playing a harmonica at the same time unfortunately is impossible for one person. That doesn't withhold the band from touring the whole world. Many an interesting country has been visited.

The Rhythm Kings are able to work themselves up in very different ways. Alternative rock is one aspect. The band even hints at Royal Blood in the bass sound, ever so faintly I admit, but only to show where a whole bunch of variation can take a band. So far superior to the British duo, that still has to move beyond the hype. Rock The Rhythm Kings style, meeting The Black Keys somewhere along the way ('The Game Is Up'). On the other side of the band's spectrum the melancholy ballads work really well. Listen to the ballad 'Winter Bones' and notice how subtly moods are shifted, how sweet the harmonica is played, underscoring the soft emotions.

In the lyrics some aspects of the modern world are taken on. The title of the opening song gives a hint: 'Headphone city'. Yes, I live in a headphone city to, travel in a headphone train, etc. Modern travelling comes by as is "Calling myself", something no one did 20 years ago.

The superb way The Rhythm Junks can play with a rhythm, doing right to its name, is shown best in 'Shopping Again'. The drums sound like it is so easy, the bass plays light and distorted, the harmonica is almost a percussive instrument. The song swings in an odd yet very convincing way.

What hinders me a little is the Belgian accent in the singing. This is obviously the best De bruyn can do. With some voices an accent is charming, unfortunately not with his voice's timbre. I'm not complaining too hard though. When the most poppy song on the album comes by, 'Trying To Listen', I'm pulled back into the album and listen to the free flowing melody instead.

It Takes A While is an album with a lot to discover. The album definitely does not give away its secrets in one go. Adventurous, well coloured in and above all interestingly good.


You can listen to 'Trying To Listen' here:

or buy on Bol.Com:

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