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World Music CD Reviews Europe

Flat Earth Society

By Stacy Meyn
Published April 27, 2007

Bonk/Crammed Discs

Composer Peter Vermeersch, formerly of Knitting Factory darlings X-Legged Sally, directs this eccentric, anything but flat Belgian big band. Think Carl Stalling and Raymond Scott swishing martoonies with Frank Zappa and Sun Ra. Squeals of clarinets, squonks of sax, burps of trombone, blats of tuba, and skirls of accordion vie for domination, punctuated by frenzied narration and vocal histrionics. Guest guitarist Roland Vancampennout holds his own amid the melee, playing what can only be deemed “acid skronk.” No surprise that the title cut is a searing whirlwind of interband blare that, astoundingly, never veers completely out of control. Flat Earth Society rules its roost, dishing out chase scene soundtracks at one moment, then ratcheting down with smoky torch song melodies. Most contemporary big bands do the repertory thing, which is all well and good, but it is invigorating to hear evidence that the genre is not merely static, but evolving.