To call René Van Commenée a non-conformist doesn’t do him justice. The Dutch polymath started out as a graphic designer, studied Indian classical music and became a world-class tabla player and percussionist.
Mr Averell: Gridlock
High art from the Low Countries.
A sound designer for theatres and shows by trade, in 2003 released Batteries Included with ex-Van der Graaf Generator brass ace David Jackson, who’s just one of the guests on Van Commenée’s outing as Mr Averell. Gridlock is a meaningful, delightfully off-kilter narrative made up of arty, avant-garde songs.
Break The Mirror is typical, glistening with pub piano, Judge Smith’s euphonium and Jackson’s saxophones. Throughout, Van Commenée’s maverick vocals evoke Peter Hammill, and prepared banjos, barrel organs, industrial, sampled beats and accordions vie for bandwidth. Lene Lovich gives delicious counterpoint with her reliably quirky turn on the title track and Kiss The Girl (Hammill/Peter Gabriel sideman John Ellis on guitar).
Deliberately – an existential tract set to grand brass and funereal organ – and the insane circus ride that is Rideehoo!! are typical – they sweep you along with their sheer force of conviction.