Jeugdbrand - presents Smile

LP Edition of 300.


One of the first things you notice about Dennis Tyfus is that his lips are too small for his mouth. This becomes especially obvious if you go out to eat with him late at night in Antwerp. He has to really grease up whatever sausage he chooses with a lot of mayonnaise in order to slide it through the taut sphincter that guards his mouthly cavern. This physical fact has made Dennis’s speaking voice a thing of horror for many years, but we have only just realized he is able to sing pretty well through this tiny aperture. Indeed, if you are not watching closely, you might think he was actually able to open his mouth as wide a typical human. Which he is not. So it is all the more remarkable that the vocals he creates inside Jeugdbrand (a Flemish slang term for “lips as of a pony”) have a faux full-throated magnificence to them.

But this is only one of the great surprises of this new record. Those who have not heard Jeugdbrand’s brilliant debut, Siamese Dream (Team) will be shocked (SHOCKED!) to discover how utterly musical Dennis’s new duo with drummer/etc-ist Jeroen Stevens actually sounds.

Tyfus is one of his generation’s most aggressively polymathic tricksters. The vast majority of his projects are (to cop the title of Mayakovsky’s Russian Futurist manifesto) “a slap in the face of public taste.” But there is something genuine and generous about the music on Smile. It’s not not-weird, but the twisted pairings of vocals with percussion, piano, organ and recorder are not off-putting in the least.

The vocals show touches of various Folkways Ethnic Library titles, but manage to create a wily and mysterious cloud of sound art, with which the skeletal musical arrangements play beautifully. Jeroen’s instrumental inventions are as blasted as Dennis’s in their own way. Stevens is probably best known for the insane De Stoeltjes project, on which he covers the entirety of the first Stooges album playing three chairs! But he has done jillions of things, inclidng a quartet with Eric Thielemans, Chris Corsano whose set is still being drooled over in the Low Countries. But in the context of Jeugdbrand, he is the man who sets the scene in which his partner’s canary is allowed to warble.

It’s impossible to guess what sort of mischief thes panty-sniffing maniacs will get up to next, but for now they has opted to play (relatively) nice. And we should enjoy this respite while we can.


-Byron Coley, 2023