Silvester Anfang

(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

De Vrije Beyaerdiers (2005), 6/10
We Creep Within Dark Places (2005), 5/10
Satanische Vrede (2006), 6/10
Echte Vlaamse Geiten (2006), 6.5/10
Heidense Maagden (2006), 6.5/10
Kosmies Slachtafval (2007), 6.5/10
Sylvester Anfang II (2009) , 7/10
Commune Cassetten (2010), 4.5/10
Perzische Tapijten (2012), 5/10
Untitled (2012), 5/10

Belgian ensemble Silvester Anfang improvised tribal satanic hippy music that bordered on both acid folk and gothic rock.

Their early recordings were leaning towards abstract soundscaping techniques. The single-sided cassette Damnation On Tweede Kerstdag (Funeral Folk, 2004) contains an eleven-minute collage of random instrumental sounds. The single-sided cassette Silvester Anfang (Funeral Folk, 2005) is 23 minutes of subliminal and almost inaudible sounds, Raping The Goat (2005) contains two 18-minute improvisations, Raping The Goat, whose loose aggregate of random sonic events resembles atonal chamber music and free jazz, and Ripping The Rectum, in which the atonal guitar battles a lazy saxophone at a tenser swinging tempo before the whole turns into a hare-krishna dance. Most of them were self-indulgent, to say the least.

De Vrije Beyaerdiers (2005), the first major collection, delivered: a mini-concerto for shamanic percussions, Lo And Behold The Free Beyaerdiers; a twelve-minute study in chaos and droning, Lange Verneukte Drone Pt I; the cacophonous vignette Anfang Ritueel; the childish ballet of Return Of The Beyaerd in which the players seem to try whatever instrument they found at the nearby pawnshop; the accurately titled Medieval Mongoloid Bigband; and the more "refined" exploration of tones and drones of Redelijk Lange Drone. This was still a wildly self-indulgent work of abstract improvisation.

We Creep Within Dark Places (2005), the second major collection, is another hodgepodge of randomly conceived and casually executed ideas. The ten-minute Man Met De Bokkepoot stands out because it creates a solid foundation with droning accordion, frantic bells and tom-tom on which an amateurish flute attempts to improvise. The eight-minute Troops Of Silvester focuses even more heavily on the drones Bukkake Ritual, instead, returns to their favorite loose fantasias for percussion and random notes. The shadow of a melody surfaces in Nachtschade. This is still a chaotic and crude work although some structure is beginning to emerge.

The chaos finally coalesced on Satanische Vrede (K-RAA-K3, 2006) and yielded the propulsive psychotic 13-minute dance Kraaien Op Het Veld/ Demonische Agricultuur II, even if it ended in the usual vacuum of ideas. Even more cohesive is Verkracht Door Demonen, a wilder dance built out of many small sonic events. The shorter pieces too suddenly display musical skills and a passion for rhythm.

Echte Vlaamse Geiten (Eclipse, 2006) contained only four pieces and each had its own identity, whether the sleepy blues jam of Satanische Slang Vernietig De Aarde or the street dance of Het Bestormen Van De Verdoemenisberg. The 22-minute Demonische Agricultuur represented their most ambitious work yet, roughly consisting of four stages: first free-form percussion, then harsh dissonance, then rhythm and finally psychedelic distortion.

By the time they released the double-disc Heidense Maagden (2006), Silvester Anfang had perfected the art of the collective dance, in which every instrument contributes to the rhythm in one manner or another. The 28-minute Orthodoxe Schapen undergoes mutations that correspond to different propulsion stages. At about halfway the bells of a church signal the end of the dance. The music decays into anarchy but then slowly returns to a dancing pattern. At the same time, Demonarchie proved that their skills at soundpainting had become more sophisticated. The 25-minute Ongetiteld leverages both skills, being another romp of the first kind (with a stronger pow-wow beat) but with cosmic keyboards of the second kind surrounding it, and electronic noise driving it into a dissonant chasm. The cinematic aspect had also improved dramatically: the shamanic recitation of Geitekeutel is submerged by nightmarish distortion and by magniloquent drums.

The single-sided cassette Het Orkest Van Scheuten En Speugen (2006) bridges the old and new style. A chaos of percussion and atonal sounds slowly coalesced around a rhythm set by guitar and tambourine. When this dies out, a terrifying drone takes over. The music rapidly decays into anarchy, but at the every end a macabre singalong rising from the ashes. The single-sided cassette Spontane Opnames 1 (2007) contains two pieces: the eleven-minute galactic chaos of Zoetieboelie Astrobrol, and the 24-minute Dadaistic hysterically atonal orgy Voor Kerstdag Wil Ik Enkel Jou Boubou (a rare case of aggressive mood in their opus). The mini-album Levend Op De Brandstapel (Skulls Of Heaven, 2007) contains only the 26-minute Burned Alive At The Stake, built around a massive guitar distortion that sounds like Jimi Hendrix lost in a labirynth of mirrors. This piece marked a turn towards a more robust and frenzied style, one influenced by space-rock rather than acid folk.

Kosmies Slachtafval (Aurora Borealis, 2007) contained just two lengthy pieces and marked further progress in both technique and architecture. The 16-minute Mijn Vader Was Een Wolf En Mijn Moeder Was Een Hoer continued the progression towards more aggressive collective dances with louder and sharper guitar distortions and towards suspenseful cosmic interludes. The 28-minute Konfituur Voor De Satanjeugd reduces the romp to a shuffle but adds on top of it a church organ that sometimes evokes Terry Riley's Persian Surgery Dervishes. Halfway the organ all but disappears, and de facto a new piece begins, one dominated by a loud distorted guitar.

Sylvester Anfang II (Aurora Borealis, 2009) was a more accessible work, but at the same time less focused. The guitar intones a loud distorted raga-like hymn in the macabre trippy dance Na Regen Komt Zondvloed. The same idea is repeated in the nine-minute Boom Van De Eerste Menstruatie with a humbler guitar and more martial tempo, while adding voices and a steady drone. The slow sleepy blues jam The Devil Always Shits In The Same Graves Pt.I, the most catatonic of the bunch, contrasts with the bouncing eight-minute pow-wow dance Ossezaaddans, the most lively of the bunch. The most adventurous pieces are in the middle. Het Zilte Nat is a languid electronic poem for lonely humming synthesizer that turns chaotic and dissonant. The 15-minute Burkelbos has a wavering distorted organ carrying a fragile melody wrapped around a sinister bass line at a suspenseful tempo. Then the organ's tone mutates into a passionate raga surrounded by astral noises for the ecstatic crescendo of the finale. The only thing here that can be called a "song" is the eleven-minute The Devil Always Shits In The Same Graves Pt.II, in which the simple melody battles a swarm of electronic effects. The guitar helps the drums maintain the usual esoteric tempo. This album works as a compendium and a sort of professional-quality remix of their career.

The guitar largely abstains from the distorted orgies of II on Commune Cassetten (Blackest Rainbow, 2010), a less intimidating work. The brief disjointed blues jam Vleesderven segues into one of their typical hippy dances, Salon Commune II, but here the pow-wow tempo is pushed towards Neu's motorik rhythm. The loosely sideral Sloow Flanger feels a bit aimless, and Zure Regen is so mellow to sound like a version of their music for the cocktail lounge. This is one of their weakest albums.

Sylvester Anfang's offshoot Hellvete beat the main group at its own game with the more sophisticated and symphonic De Gek (K-Raa-k, 2010).

Sylvester Anfang II continued to alternate creative works to dull ones. World-music percolates into Perzische Tapijten (The Great Pop Supplement, 2012), recorded live in an abandoned farmhouse, but the only original result is the brief Etherik. At the same time, the five untitled jams of Untitled (Latitudes, 2012) display their limited instrumental skills and unlimited pretentiousness.

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(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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