Well, they do say variety is the spice of life, and getting the new World Music album by Dutch artist Barend Tromp certainly added hybridity to my week’s listening.
It’s an all instrumental album, and it rarely fails to fascinate. I did wonder about the “fishy” theme, I mean, I like fish, but they are not known for their musicality. Apparently, each of the eleven songs represents a different fish. As a child, Barend got a book for his birthday about the underwater world that made a great impression on him. He was fantasising about each of the fish that he saw in those pictures. This is what inspired him to make this album.
First, a brief biography of the artist. Barend began as a classical guitarist at a young age. He began playing bass and electric guitar in bands and making his own compositions. He graduated from his conservatory studies in 1996 and finished his musical science at the University of Amsterdam three years later. His guitar playing had a big influence on his electric bass style. He plays chords, strumming, slapping, and using various finger styles. By combining all these techniques, he creates a unique bass style. Besides normal 4-string and 6-string bass, he also loves playing fretless bass.
Adventurous players such as Stanley Clarke, John Giblin, Percy Jones, Michael Manring, Les Claypool, and Tony Levin had an influence on his style. Listening to his grandfather’s old Ravi Shankar records inspired Barend to pick up the sitar. It led to a lengthy journey of learning the instrument as well as Indian classical music. Barend lived for six months in India, where he had lessons every day. These six months were a real boost for his sitar playing. In the last few years, he has been incorporating Indian classical music into the repertoires of several fusion groups. Barend is also a long-time writer for the Dutch national printed bass magazine De Bassist.
Thus, for sure, this album is a meeting of the West and East, and it successfully pulls off the combination. Barend plays the sitar very well, and the instrument fits in comfortably with the rest of the album.
The album is stylistically cohesive and is a development from his 2021 single “Calcutta Zoo,” which was an eccentric sound montage.
It opens with “Lord of the Fishes,” techno pop with a solid groove. It is a great opener—a fast, appealing instrumental that is danceable. While it was on, I found myself bopping around the kitchen!
The interestingly named “Colossal Octopus” allows the sitar to shine. This track is slightly darker, more sitar-led, and has a slight funk edge to it.
I’d describe “microscopic zooplankton” as “swirly,” as it’s light and plays musical tricks. By the time I got to this track, I could see where things connected, the concept album held together and provided a great listening experience.
Next up, “Underwater World,” was probably my least favourite on the album, I like the ones where the melodic hooks are more immediate, and this one wasn’t for me.
On the other hand, ”Bass of Doom” has this interesting clicking sound. It’s hard to describe. I would say generally, the album is full of unexpected little moments, and we almost had a vocal on this one. It’s a sound wall.
“Narcomedusae” (as a reviewer, some of these spellings were a nightmare! I wish he had named the song “Cod,” as I can spell that!) is a return to that techno sound, and he does it really well.
“Golden Mahseer,” featuring Michael Manring, and the blend between the Indian sitar and the western instruments make this number a slightly melancholic one. I found it dreamy, at the feet of the guru.
“Extreme Jaws” was my second favourite on the album; I was drawn in by the funky feeling it had. It has a return to some terrific melodic harmony and it knows exactly how to pull its listener in.
“Snakeheads Crawling on Land” was almost a science fiction soundtrack; it created a bridge to the album closer to the well-named “Psychedelic Frogfish.”
So what did I think overall? I would say this is a testament to the musical diversity and talent of Barend Tromp, it is an album with plenty of light and shade and has the standout track “Lord of the Fishes” – a wonderful piece of techno pop.
The album was released on digital download and CD, it is available from Subcontinental Records.
TRACKLISTING: 1. Narcomedusae 2. Lord of the Fishes 3. Colossal Octopus 4. Microscopic Zooplankton 5. Underwater World 6. Bass of Doom 7. Golden Mahseer (Ft. Michael Manring) 8. Extreme Jaw Forces of Extinct Piranhas 9. Snakeheads Crawling On Land 10. Psychedelic Frogfish 11. Balaena Mysticetus
Barend Tromp—fretted and fretless basses; fretted and fretless guitar; 12-string acoustic guitar; sitar; and programming.
Michael Manring: fretless bass and Ebow solo on 7 Patrick Eijdems: drums on 1 and 6. Nathan van de Wouw – drums on 4
Kim Weemhoff – drums on 5
Eugene Vugts – drums on 9
Peter Arts van der Zanden – flute on 5
Brenda Nijsen – voice on 10
All songs were composed and mixed by Barend Tromp. Mastered by Michael Valentine West
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Review by Stevie Ritson
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