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Finnegans Wake

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  • Formed: Brussels, Belgium
  • Years Active: 1990s, 2000s


Biography All Music Guide

All Music Guide:

Finnegans Wake is not just the name of James Joyce's baffling and impenetrable work of fiction, but the name adopted by at least a few musical ensembles over the years, not surprisingly a Celtic band based in -- somewhat surprisingly after all -- Las Vegas (and with "Finnegan's" in the singular possessive form). There is a Finnegans Wake band with no connection to Celtic music or Ireland or the United States, however, and that group is a bit more difficult to pinpoint in terms of both style and geography. As for style, try an avant-prog amalgam of influences including post-Canterbury prog and contemporary classical; as for geography, jump across the Atlantic from Belgium to Brazil (and throw in Germany as well). This Finnegans Wake is decidedly a rather large distance away from Blarney Rock.

If one individual could be deemed the principal driving force behind Finnegans Wake, it would be Henry Krutzen, a multi-instrumentalist (primarily keyboards, percussion, and tenor saxophone) who began the group, along with bassist Alain Lemaître, as a Canterbury, RIO, and jazz-influenced prog rock band in Belgium during 1993. Also featuring keyboardist Jean-Louis Aucremanne and singer/lyricist Richard Redcrossed (aka Richard Belgium), Finnegans Wake released two albums on the Mellow label, Yellow in 1994 and Green in 1998. The group's third album, Pictures, was issued by Musea/Gazul in 2001, the same year that Krutzen moved to Brazil. However, Finnegans Wake remained active as a transatlantic ensemble, with guitarist Alexandre Moura-Barros joining the group after meeting Krutzen in the bandleader's new hometown of Natal in northeastern Brazil, and Lemaître and Redcrossed remaining in Belgium as the other two members of the core quartet.

This band recorded Finnegans Wake's fourth album, a double-CD set titled simply 4th, which was released by the Belgian Carbon 7 label in 2004. The CD was recorded and mixed in Natal and Brussels, and mastered by Belgian guitarist and studio wiz Pierre Vervloesem (ex-X-Legged Sally). Guest musicians had always played an important role in the wide-ranging sound palette of Finnegans Wake albums, and 4th featured no less than 15 such guests -- primarily from Brazil -- on such instruments as clarinet, drums, trombone, violin, trumpet, bassoon, cello, oboe, and assorted percussion. Notable among the guests was Belgian keyboardist Aucremanne, no longer considered a core bandmember, and Brazilian flutist Alexandre Johnson, who would join the band as a bona fide member in 2007 prior to the recording of the group's next album, Blue, released by the Italian ArtrOck label near the end of 2008.

Blue revealed yet more lineup changes aside from the addition of flutist Johnson, including the departures of Brazilian guitarist Moura-Barros and Belgian singer/lyricist Redcrossed. The lineup of the band now consisted of Krutzen and Lemaître, present from the very beginning of the band but now on opposite sides of the Atlantic; Johnson; and two new bandmembers, Brazilian keyboardist Marcílio Onofre and German poetess Xóchil A. Schütz, the latter taking Redcrossed's place as Finnegans Wake's lyricist (but not singer). Like 4th before it, Blue also featured a large number of guest musicians largely from Brazil, and also included on a bonus track Swedish drummer Morgan Ågren from the Mats/Morgan Band as well as Belgians Guy Segers (Univers Zero) on bass and Reginald Trigaux (Roger's son, from Present) on guitar. And once again, mastering expertise was provided by that hard-working mainstay of Belgian avant rock, Pierre Vervloesem. Finnegans Wake followed up Blue with 2010's The Bird and the Sky Above, which reduced the core membership to a quartet and introduced new member Markus Stauss on bass saxophone. Most notably, the disc signaled Finnegans Wake's break from avant-prog rock to post-jazz creative improvisation. The following year's Red, similar in style to The Bird and the Sky Above, featured 13 musicians on both sides of the Atlantic -- including Univers Zero/X-Legged Sally's Jean-Luc Plouvier on piano on one track -- performing an exploratory and often subdued album-length suite perched between contemporary chamber music and creative improvisation purged of most if not all rock influences.

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