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Avant Garde music aficionados across the globe are excited about the forthcoming second album by Dutch visual sound artist René van Commenée, under the guise Mr Averell, titled Gridlock. Van Commenée is known in The Netherlands for his music (sound) art objects, theatrical performances and soundtracks for theatre, fireworks spectacles and film.
Over the years he has worked with many acknowledged musicians around the world and became well-known by fans of Van der Graaf Generator through his percussion performances with VDGG member David Jackson. About ten years after their first duo-performances they released the well-received critically acclaimed album Batteries Included, a collection of their live recordings. In the same scene, René performed on albums by VDGG's Judge Smith as percussionist, drummer and vocalist.
“Mr Averell is a one-off and hard to classify. Is he a sensitive singer-songwriter, a rock music wildman, and avant garde performance artist or a musical clown? Maybe he's a little of each, and his music is always surprising and full of interest.” - Judge Smith
The name Mr Averell has been employed by René in order to record and release song-based recordings. He explains, ''As a musician I work mainly as a percussionist, electronic music performer and sound designer. I am a member of the trio The Art of Doing Nothing with Pipe Organ master Willem Tanke and MIDI-wind-controller/flutist Martijn Alsters. With Alsters I formed a duo for live-surround concerts and installations also.
''Separate from this I create visual sound art installations. I always like to use my voice though – I was a singer in several Dutch rock bands in the seventies and eighties, and like to write, record and perform more song-based music as I call it. But if you do so many diverse things I think you have to make clear to your audience what it is they can expect when buying your work or attending your concerts/performances. Therefore I chose to give my song-based projects a separate name, Mr Averell; a band in which I am the main writer and performer.''
Gridlock is the second Mr Averell album and features guest performances by Mike Garson (David Bowie), David Jackson, Hugh Banton and Judge Smith (Van der Graaf Generator), John Ellis (Peter Gabriel, Peter Hammill, The Stranglers), Lene Lovich, along with Stuart Gordon (Peter Hammill, Peter Gabriel, Massive Attack), Dyane Donck (Daisy Bell), Martijn Alsters, Willem Tanke, Ninca Leece, Tammo Heikens and Lisa Weiss.
''René is a wonderfully creative artist who is always pushing the boundaries of music!'' - Mike Garson
The album is an adventurous journey through very different kind of songs and instrumentals, but all with the typical, quite theatrical Van Commenée signature. Gridlock should be listened from beginning to end and isn't just a collection of songs. Literally Gridlock stands for the famous Dutch traffic jams, but also tells about the Gridlocks in our lives and heads. The wonderfully produced album may take a bit of time to sink in but once it does, it becomes timeless and unique.
And how did René amass such an impressive list of famous guest artists? He explains: ''Luckily, this was not too difficult – they're friends! In my past musical career I met many fantastic, well-known musicians with whom I've worked in several projects.
''With David Jackson I performed a couple duo-concerts, which were recorded and released as the live CD Batteries Included. We've always stayed in contact and both performed on the song-stories of Judge Smith (Curly's Airships and and Orfeas). We've always enjoyed working together, but
since we're both very busy with other projects there's seldom a moment we can, and this was a nice opportunity for the both of us. Jackson quest-performed even in the Mr Averell band at a festival a couple of years ago. Via Judge, who himself does some harmonic voices and even plays euphonium on the album. I came in contact with John Ellis thanks to the fact that he asked us both to perform on The Full English, which we also performed as a band in London. Besides a
fabulous musician John is a very nice person as well.
''The fabulous violinist Stuart Gordon, who I met many years ago via Peter Hammill, also performed on my previous Mr Averell album. While he performed and arranged a whole acoustic
string section then, on my new album he performs violin work with astonishing electronic effects. The listener might think it's electric guitar at first, but if you listen carefully you will notice that the effect is totally different because the violin is a bowed instrument – I'm very happy with it.
''People are probably very much interested in the incredible Mike Garson who is the pianist
with David Bowie since Aladdin Sane (1973). During the Outside tour I asked Bowie to give a lecture at the Utrecht School of the Arts (I was Music Technology and Music Production teacher at several art schools at that period). Bowie, who was interested, didn't see a chance because of his very busy and demanding tour schedule. Coincidentally though, Garson happened to be a friend
of a visiting professor from the States who was asked to do a project at the same school later on. This triggered us both, Mike Garson and I, for a meeting at the hotel the band stayed in and we kept in touch ever since. I was able to get him over for several (school) projects and while I was working on Gridlock we finally found time to work together in the studio, resulting in a
few songs of which we composed my personal favourite, Sightseeings, together
(with an amazing sax solo by Jackson).
''And then there is of course the extraordinary Lene Lovich with whom I sing two songs on the album.”
“It's always a pleasure to be involved in sonic adventures with Mr Averell / René van
Commenée. Often a challenge but always a
joy.” - John Ellis
In support of the release of Gridlock plans for Mr Averell to perform in Europe are currently in the works. In closing René has this to impart to his listeners, ''It is important to know that Gridlock is intended as an album and not just a collection of songs. I would suggest really playing the album from start to finish and taking the time to listen and let it sink in. Everything's made for this purpose in the first place, the order of songs and even the pauses in between them are composed. This makes it very hard in these download-times, this album should probably be downloaded as one track.''