Uské Orchestra's music is indeed a mixture of styles, but not in the avant-garde sense. For here pop music styles are not referenced, wildly combined and rendered ridiculous. No, this band rather assembles and stacks microscopic bits from all possible genres and styles to build teeming musical market places. Uské Orchestra shows a preference for acoustic sounds, recorded as is. Within seconds they change the mood, the instrument, the timbre and the arrangement. If there was ever an award for devious sound design, Uské Orchestra would be the clear winner. Just imagine the sound track to The Matrix, performed by a hyperactive brass band from the Balkans or Mexico. Up close nothing about this music appears ostentatious; but if you take a step back and view the sound paintings on Niko Et La Berlue as a whole, you'll notice the impermeability and voluminous magnitude of the tracks. Just as the mighty Leviathan emerges out of a mass of little people, ant heaps crop up here out of innumerable triads.
If there is a connection between music and language, then its a babylonic mess that reigns at Uské Orchestra. Sometimes we think we are hearing elements of bluegrass, polka, lounge jazz and electronica, but then again we are not quite sure. Our grasp of this music always seems a bit behind as it smirkingly teases and entangles us in its rough poetry. Perhaps we are too close to tell.
Parts of Niko Et La Berlue sound like jam sessions with only a rough direction, recorded on top of each other and then finished off with a good shake. What "neo folk" frequently promised, but then disappointingly delivered as regurgitated hippie music is here in Uské Orchestra's music – a really new radical strategy. The ensemble sounds the attack, the tones are free and the voice does not sit dominatingly on top of the whole, but fits into the overall picture, dressed up as various personalities. Uské Orchestra creates a strange kind of singer-songwriter music with simultaneous cut-up madness and affected eccentric minstrelsy. But Uské Orchestra is also a mystery, a kind of non-music we haven't had since Nurse with Wound. The wonderful artwork of the album and the meticulously decorated live acts of the band only complete the "Gesamtkunstwerk", a successful synthesis of arts.
Though there are key themes recognized by the four Belgian musicians who comprise Uské Orchestra running throughout the album, Niko Et La Berlue is not about themes or variations. Their aim is to keep the music free to flow liberally in all directions. For us, the listeners, it means we can not help but give into the Uske Orchestra's intensely maniacal cosmic myriad of sounds.
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