It’s a good idea Aranis called their last album ‘Made in Belgium II’. Now we know where this wonderful music comes from. Like their album ‘Made in Belgium‘ (from 2012) this ensemble plays new compositions in a wide chamber folk music way. Aranis beats every musical style, every dogma and show there are no prejudices. Catchy theme’s are provided with lovely abrasive and propulsive rhythms while the music easily modulates. Striking are repeating rhythms gives the music an enormous boost. Played without drums or percussion but divided over different instruments; double bass, guitar, accordion, violin, piano and flute. Aranis plays instrumental music, although two songs are sung phonetic and in ‘Tolles Pferd’ even a German lyric is provided. For a moment we hear a little Kurt Weill. The pieces are written by ten composers like violinist  Ananta Roosens (La Sieste du Dromadaire), accordion player Aurelia Dorzeé (Aurelia) and two pieces by Joris Vanvinckenrooije, the bass player of the group. Aranis proves by ‘Made in Belgium II‘ that they still have a lot to tell in their musical world. Great work!

***** 2 Years ago Aranis released their 5th album "Made in Belgium" which contained compositions of various Belgium composers. Apparently the album was a (relative) success so Aranis decided to make a follow up: Made in Belgium part 2. More of the same perhaps? No! There are some distinct differences compared to part 1. The most obvious one is that flute player Jana Arntz provides lead vocals on a couple of tracks. This is a really nice addition to their instrumental capabilities so my only complaint is that I wish there was more of it. Furthermore on MIB 2 the intensity levels seem to be turned up a few notches. Tracks like Skip 21, Hit, Tolles Pferd and La vague all show an aggressiveness that wasn't there before. I like it! All the tracks are good and show different sides of the band. There is a wild rocky tune (la vague) , a tango-ish tune (kablamo), a funny tune (Tolles Pferd), an atmospheric tune (DSK) and everything in between. I wont go into detail on all the tracks but I do want to specially mention the last two tracks. First there is the mighty "cell stress" of UZs Kurt Budé. My favorite track on the album and probably the best track they've ever recorded. The track is a 10 minute multi-headed beast that builds up to a great climax that leaves you gasping for air. Luckily it is followed by the wonderful melancholic and folky Funanmbul, composed by (for me completely unknown) Aurelia Dorzee. This is a prefect track to dream away with and calm down to so that, after its finished, you can play the CD immediately again. Overall I think part 2 is an improvement over part 1 (and I already completely loved that one). Together with 'the Cellar and point- Ambit' this is absolutely my favorite record of the year. I guess there is only one thing left to say. Aranis are tagged with the dreaded Rio/Avant prog label. For many people this is the synonym of 'difficult unlistenable music'. Surely, Aranis make chamber rock; a stylistic marriage of modern classical chamber music, rock and folk but in this case it always stays a very structured and melodic affair. There is never any senseless noodling or complexity for the sake of sounding smart. In fact Aranis makes fairly accessible melodic music that could appeal to a much larger crowd, if they would get the chance to hear it. So please do not let that RIO-tag deter you and give this album a chance. It makes a great introduction to the music of Aranis and Belgium chamber rock in general.- Joost The Dunno

Second installment of a said trilogy by exquisite Belgian band who have quite the adventurous history already. With releases showing original material of their own exploring light and dark chamber music, to turn on a dime RIO fit for a king, these ultra-superior musicians took on a voyage of covers by well-deserved (not always famous) fellow Belgian composers and here we are on Volume II. Another supreme platter this time bringing in not only new rules but also unequal artists like Peter Vermeersch (as a composer choice) and Pierre Vervloesem on guitar (tracks 10 and 12) both of X-Legged Sally and Flat Earth Society.

With a supreme beginning the initial cover is by Peter Vermeersch which knocks your socks off, all turn-on-a dime, dramatic, full-tilt, with dizzy changes and a pocketful of fantastic! The entire disc takes you on a grand ride with nary a second of void. Each composition is killer. Icing on the cake is track 10 (by composer Walter Hus – who was on recording Maximalist!) with the unbridled unequaled Pierre Vervloesem. Following that the third “Intermezzo” (Chevalier) then another tremendous song (“Cell “ by Kurt Bude) with Vervloesem on guitar. A slow burner with epic proportions. Last cut is gorgeous (by one of the female composers - Aurelle Dorzee from “Aurella”). What a beautiful dreamy way to end this eargasmic and pleasantly exhausting (mentally) set of works once again, exclusively from Belgium.

Part two of this “Made In Belgium” series has another couple of new things. The addition of female composers (V and XIII) plus solo piano intermezzos (by Pierre Chevalier). Everything is even more perfect than their first CD. This easily makes my best 2014 list, hands down. Amazing and most highly recommended

Reviewed by Lee Henderson on November 17th, 2014

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