Tempus Cucumis - Rêves

Tempus Cucumis – Rêves

I love the unpredictable power of music to take you completely by surprise. I knew absolutely nothing about Belgian duo Jeroen De Brauwer and Lukas Huisman apart from the briefest of messages which arrived in an email along with a picture of the album cover. What I do know, however, is that not long after hitting the play button, the sheer freshness of the music and the wonderful sense of joyful vibrancy reached out, grabbed hold of me and from that moment on, steadfastly refused to let go.

Music can do that. It can stop you dead in your tracks. And that is exactly what happened. Less than a minute into the first track, the equivalent of what I can only describe as a gently seductive aural hijack took place as I put down what I was doing and sat there transfixed until the end. I remained transfixed as I listened again, an ever-increasing smile of enjoyment and appreciation spreading across my face as I picked out new moments and had my attention captured by new aspects of the music.

This review is in part the story of my encounter with Tempus Cucumis and an album which I can honestly say has truly been and continues to be a glorious voyage of musical discovery. It is also, in part, me wrestling with the arresting experience it prompted, trying to make sense of what that is and how on earth I’m going to find ways to tell you about it!

The more I listen, the more I think there are three overarching features of the album which come together in fashioning this engrossing musical experience. I’ve already spoken about the album being a journey of musical discovery. What first captures your attention is precisely the experimental way in which the music develops. Each song is its own musical adventure.

De Brauwer and Huismans are classically trained musicians and there are clear influences across the album of a classical shape and form giving structure to the music. At the same time, make no mistake about it, there is a natural, spontaneous flow and quickness to the spirit of the music. The musicians say they challenge themselves to write and record one song a day. That impulse firmly puts the music in the driving seat, giving it an element of responsive improvisation that lets it go where it wants. As a result, the songs have a fantastic sense of adventure, of musical curiosity satisfying itself. Innovation is built into the core of each song.

Take, for example, opening track 8522. A languid, slick, easy-going opening beguiles you into thinking we’re in the realm of classical jazz. But then the layering becomes more intense, the tone changes, a more aggressive, accentuated character appears, building to a magnificent crescendo – which then dissipates as quickly as it came, ending in stillness, a solo instrument echoing against an inky background. Or take Interbellum; shifts and turns of momentum, changes of direction, tone and pace, the musical landscape weaving in and out of sonic valleys and mountains.

This is where the second feature I would point your attention to starts to become apparent. The effectiveness of the journey relies on the elegance of the shifting contrasts found throughout the album. Moments of serene beauty emerge from bursts of discordant energy, gripping solo instrumentations bounce off dark, overbearing foundations. The musicians deftly navigate and explore the full spectrum of sounds and possibilities, creating a sizzling, dynamic listening experience that keeps listeners on the edge of their seats.

Rêves 2, the album’s second track, is the perfect illustration. A highly discordant, loud, brash opening transitions to a contrasting passage of symphonic, melodic tranquillity. The piercing guitar of the opening then reappears, but because the context is now different, so is the effect. The sound is different, the tone changes. But then we shift again to a more purposeful, directed climax where both styles blend and contrast to an intricate finale.

The free-flowing juxtaposition of light and dark, quiet and loud, soft and grainy, creates a gripping sense of tension and release, adding depth and dimension to each track. In A Bar Somewhere has the most delicious atmospheric opening, the ticking of a clock, creating the feel of a late night, dimly lit, smoke-hazed room, a pianist playing a carefree tune in the corner, with a sultry whimsical guitar for company. A wistful vocal joins, in keeping with the end-of-the-night vibe. But a musical brawl breaks out, a turmoil of emotions, painful memories, drunken resentment, mournful leavings. The vocal cries I wish you didn’t have to go. Don’t go.

Here we arrive at the third aspect to which I would point your attention. No matter what the song, they all bear the unmistakable imprint of musicians having fun. There are no slaves to the rhythm here. The embrace of playful experimentation is both refreshing and exhilarating. Predictability gives way to disciplined spontaneity that keeps you guessing at every turn. They are enjoying themselves; they delight in playing with – and off – each other, intricate nuanced interactions, living the music, embodying the music. Expression is everything.

It’s All Right, the Sun is Shining Today captures this perfectly. That languid style is back, but this time stylistically different where drumming now offsets a plucked guitar. But then powerful, growling guitar chords form a gritty textured sonic landscape with off-beat drums hammering against a solo riff. A gently sweeping passage emerges, the sun emerging from behind the clouds. A short abrupt staccato repeating refrain anchors the song, gusts of wind in the summer breeze.

If you had to distil the music of this album, it all comes from this exquisite musical synergy. There is always something new, something creative, something interesting to hear. A clear and palpable togetherness shines through, allowing the free-flowing expression of emotions and stories to be told. The music holds you, enrapt, eager to hear more, anxious to know where it is going next.

This is why I downed tools. This is why they jolly well stayed put down. It’s gripping stuff. It lays its musical hands on you, grabs your attention and, like a jealous lover, holds you until it decides it is done with you. Absolutely fantastic.

01. 8522 (4:01)
02. Rêves 2 (3:47)
03. It’s All Right, the Sun is Shining Today (4:43)
04. Rêves 4 (3:59)
05. Towards Nowhere (5:26)
06. In a Bar Somewhere (6:38)
07. Rêves 3 (4:38)
08. Interbellum (5:15)
09. Rêves 1 (5:26)

Total Time – 43:53

Jeroen De Brauwer – Guitars, Drums, Composition
Lukas Huisman – Keyboards, Production
~ With:
Jonas Veirman – Vocals (track 6)
Anne-Lien – Vocals (track 9)

Record Label: Adipem Orbis Records
Format: Digital
Country of Origin: Belgium
Date of Release: 9th December 2023

Tempus Cucumis – Website | Facebook | YouTube | Instagram | Bandcamp