Juvenile Fish Tales is the latest album from Barend Tromp, an envelope-pushing guitarist, bass guitarist and sitar player from the Netherlands. It’s an instrumental album inspired by a book he received as a child which explored the undersea world and set his imagination free, and each track here is inspired by a different underwater resident. It’s a fascinating record, and not easy to classify, but incorporates elements of fusion, progressive rock, world music and ambient, and from the first few notes, his mastery of the bass is obvious.
Narcomedusae has an insanely fast bass riff which sounds like a demented cross between Tony Levin and Les Claypool. Think Crimson’s Sartori in Tangier on steroids and you’re getting there. The tonal qualities sound perfect for an underwater odyssey as we dive into the world of some kind of jellyfish. Tromp shows that he is just as at home on guitar as bass with some atmospheric electronic touches, whilst Patrick Eidjems tries hard to keep up with Tromp on the drum kit. It is an eerily beautiful piece which introduces the sort of sound/seascapes we can expect. Lord of the Fishes has a funk edge with gorgeous fretless bass, and guitar flourishes mimicking bubbles as they make their bid for freedom from the watery depths. Sitar provides the melody, and a decidedly exotic flavour; this ain’t the North Sea.
Each track has a distinct mood and timbre, but they all successfully conjure images of undersea strangeness, and the effect is magically hypnotic. Underwater World, for example, adds scene-setting flute from Peter Arts van der Zanden and superb drumming from Kim Weemhoff, whilst Tromp wrings all sorts of weird underwater sounds from his guitar. Probably the best collaborative guest performance is on Golden Mahseer which features fretless bass and a superb EBow solo from Tromp’s hero Michael Manring, while Tromp himself plays some marvellous choppy 12-string acoustic guitar and sitar. It’s a definite standout moment for me.
Extreme Jaw Forces of Extinct Piranhas has hip hop rhythms and some guitar playing that sounds as dangerous as I imagine the fish once were. Much of the music on this album sounds as though it would have comfortably sat as a Crimson ProjeKct in that there is a brisk precision to the rhythms and some other-worldly guitar and bass work going on. If people don’t find this progressive, then I don’t understand what the word means. If Piranhas make you feel wary, Snakeheads Crawling on Land isn’t any more comfortable, and as for the Psychedelic Frogfish, well that’s plain weird. Brenda Nijsen provides some truly outstanding vocal gymnastics on this strange piece, although there are no words as such. Finally, with some (presumably) genuine recordings of the creature, there is a brief musical paean to the Bowhead Whale in the final track Balaena Mysticetus. It’s a short but wonderful conclusion to an extraordinary album. It’s the sort of musical interlude to reset your system, a mindful moment that refreshes the soul.
So, if you’ve been fed a diet of traditional rock and prog lately, this record would make a great palate cleanser. Beyond that though, it’s a great piece of work which makes a thoroughly refreshing listen. It’s invigorating, chilling, hypnotic and satisfying. Who would have thought a bass player could tick all those boxes? Go on, get your snorkel out and have a dip into the world of Barend Tromp.
01. Narcomedusae (4:37)
02. Lord of the Fishes (6:54)
03. Colossal Octopus (3:57)
04. Microscopic Zooplankton (4:10)
05. Underwater World (4:14)
06. Bass of Doom (5:02)
07. Golden Mahseer (3:41)
08. Extreme Jaw Forces of Extinct Piranhas (5:42)
09. Snakeheads Crawling on Land (4:13)
10. Psychedelic Frogfish (4:47)
11. Balaena Mysticetus (1:30)
Total Time – 48: 47
Barend Tromp – Fretted & Fretless Basses & Guitars, 12-string Acoustic Guitar, Sitar, Programming
Michael Manring – Fretless Bass, EBow Solo (track 7)
Patrick Eijdems – Drums (tracks 1 & 6)
Nathan van de Wouw – Drums (track 4)
Kim Weemhoff – Drums (track 5)
Eugene Vugts – Drums (track 9)
Peter Arts van der Zanden – Flute (track 5)
Brenda Nijsen – Voice (track 10)
Record Label: Subcontinental Records
Country of Origin: The Netherlands
Date of Release: 2nd December 2022
Barend Tromp – Website | Facebook | Bandcamp
Subcontinental Records – Website | Facebook | | Bandcamp