1/  Ffwd                                       (Vermeersch)                  5.35
  2/  Zippo Raid                                 (Vermeersch)                  4.19
  3/  XLS                                        (Vermeersch)                  6.53
  4/  Down at the Dinghy                         (Vermeersch)                  4.34
  5/  Bacon & Eggs                               (Vervloesem,LeRiche)          5.25
  6/  34th Street                                (Vermeersch)                  4.59
  7/  Blackhead Blue Blues                       (Vermeersch)                  5.08
  8/  Lacto                                      (Vermeersch)                  1.06
  9/  Fuck & Coffee                              (Vermeersch)                  2.50
  10/ Turkish Bath                               (Myers,Vermeersch)            5.21
  11/ Little Hearts                              (Vermeersch)                  4.24
  12/ Liquid                                     (Vermeersch)                  4.06
  13/ Pinocchio                                  (Vermeersch)                  5.05
  14/ Memphis                                    (Vermeersch)                  4.49
  15/ Ongenaam                                   (Vermeersch)                  1.54

          Recorded at Greenpoint Studio, Brooklyn, New York
          Engineering by Oz Fritz
          Assisted by Imad Mansour
          Mixed at Kampo Cultural Centre Studio, NYC
          Assisted by Larry Larry
          Produced by Bill Laswell
          Mastered by Tony Dawsey at Masterdisk, NYC
Danny Van Hoeck: drums; Bruno Deneuter: bass; Pierre Vervloesem: guitar, vocals; Jean Luc Plouvier : keyboards; Michel Mast: baritone and tenor sax; Sally C.S.: X-noise and twists; Peter Vermeersch: clarinet, tenor sax; Eric Sleichim: alto sax.

          1991 - Sub Rosa (Belgium), SUB CD024-46 (CD)
Note: Bill Laswell does not play on this album.


This debut album was recorded in October 91 by Bill Laswell and the Knitting Factory in NY, but was only released for the opening of festivities of 93's Antwerp, European Cultural Capital that lasted a whole year. Apparently the Flemish regional government funded the project. Being mostly Peter Vermeersch and Pierre Vervloesem's group, the septet has an incredible sound, being mostly inspired by Zappa (and Beefheart), but clearly these guys listened to a wide array of music and the prog groups also. The inside group photo does show a girl named sally sitting cross-legged, you will never know if it was a spoof or not.

With its slow-beat but eccentric jazz opener the uninitiated proghead might just take the advice from the track title and push the FFWD, but this would be a serious mistake. Zippo Raid is a much more energetic track while the aptly-titled XLS - their eponymous track supposed to define them - raised the standards to such heights that Miriodor or Alamaailman Vasarat better be holding on to their seats, if they do not want to be taken by a storm. Among the other highlights are Blackhead BB with its sax orgies (were VDGG's Jackson was obviously an influence) underlined by Vervloesem's Zappa-esque guitars, Bacon & Eggs and Turkish Bath. In a much harder and funky way (in a Red Hot Chilly Peppers sense) Little hearts and Lacto B rock your heart out with a real virtuosity but staying away from the demonstration.

A stunning debut album (well the group members were no rookies, Plouvier hammering the keys since the early 80's), and the first of series of impressive records. X-L S is one of the seminal bands of Belgium's 90's scenes, and a must-hear-to-believe-it.

4 of 5 stars

Sean Trane (courtesy of the Prog Archives website)


It's easy to see why Bill Laswell was impressed when Peter Vermeersch sent him the demo from Belgium. This band was hot, hotter in fact than pretty much anyone the big, bad N.Y.C. producer/bassist was working with at the time. So X-Legged Sally was invited to record at Laswell's Greenpoint Studio in Brooklyn, and Slow-Up is the result. The band's debut full-length nearly overflows with energy, a sax-driven riff feast with full-tilt forward momentum from the rhythm section and no-holds-barred solos from reeds, guitar, and keys -- all packaged in 15 concise tunes (mainly instrumental and mainly penned by bandleader/clarinetist/saxophonist Vermeersch) that reveal how hooks, melodies, and straightforward harmonic and rhythmic foundations can be an asset even in the world of avant-prog music. The band's avant tendencies are balanced expertly with the plain satisfaction of nimbly executed unison and harmony lines, memorable themes, and the oft-displayed ability to accelerate from a standstill to light speed (and vice versa) in the blink of an eye. And while Vermeersch and company bring a certain Euro-style artfulness and serious avant jazz chops to the proceedings, the down and dirty influences of funk, blues, and even screamin' rock & roll (check out manic shredder guitarist Pierre Vervloesem's lung-tearing vocals on "Bacon & Eggs") crop up all over the place. Envision the members of Parliament/Funkadelic suddenly finding themselves on-stage with King Crimson running through those crazy stop-and-start unison passages in "21st Century Schizoid Man." That's what a lot of Slow-Up is like. But if the CD were merely fast, faster, and fastest music 100 percent of the time, it would ultimately be a bit of a bore -- like a Hollywood big-budget action movie with five or six too many chase scenes. Slow-Up isn't that; Vermeersch expertly modulated the program and he knew when to slow down, as in "Down at the Dinghy," a lovely little tango performed by the band's three reedmen with everyone else sitting out. And "Blackhead Blue Blues" is as moody and low in its slow groove as the blues can be, that is until Vervloesem unleashes a torrent of notes from mysterious depths right out into the stratosphere. Still, hard chargers like "34th Street," "Turkish Bath," and "Memphis" are the biggest stunners, with high-spirited energy, compact structures, and grooves that won't let go. If there's any fault whatsoever to be found, it's actually with Laswell's production, which is a bit bottom-heavy. The reeds could've been punched up when the entire band is cranked and cooking; perhaps Laswell forgot to tweak the knobs from one of his atmospheric ambient/world/dub productions. Or maybe the band frightened him and he ran out before he could tweak anything (naw, he was back producing Killed by Charity during the band's next U.S. visit). At any rate, it's a minor quibble. Slow-Up is a masterpiece of avant prog and should be in the CD collection of anyone who appreciates, say, New York's Doctor Nerve or Montréal's Les Projectionnistes.

4 1/2 stars out of 5

Dave Lynch (courtesy of the All Music Guide website)