The future belongs to collectives – there’s no doubt about it, according to Bert and Stijn Cools. More than just brothers, they are soulmates. Together they founded granvat, a creative sanctuary for their own projects and those of their loose crowd of associates. The Cools brothers prefer to define their collective as a production company and see themselves as artistic curators. When they themselves are not playing in one or another project, they are either initiating or producing new ventures. Granvat focuses in the first place on performers with an affinity for jazz, but also wishes to present itself more broadly. For them, flirting with other art forms – from visual art to contemporary dance – can only be an enrichment.

With the trio Hoera. – together with bassist Dries Laheye (STUFF., BRZZVLL, etc.) – Stijn and Bert Cools create a landscape in which to travel, somewhere between song and film score, between jazz and soundscape. With its own distinct sound, Hoera. is a modern interpretation of the acoustic jazz trio. Their soundscapes exude peace and quiet as well as intimacy. Open compositions alternate with improvisation.

Entirely in line with the granvat philosophy, Hoera. also presents itself as an open band that often calls on guests such as Dutch pianist Harmen Fraanje, US violinist Eyvind Kang, Lithuanian kanklės player Indré Jurgeleviciuté and electronica musician Roman Hiele. Their latest recording, Beestentijd, is a concept album that manages to create a very peculiar experience. Instead of choosing a traditional release, Hoera. opted for a download code in combination with a large-scale jigsaw puzzle of the artwork (by Johan Meuris). Thanks to this new format, the listener immediately has a completely different experience of the music. The message is clear: take your time making the puzzle and experience our music as it should be. Like a slow, relaxed murmur.

With Book of Air too, granvat is taking aim at the experience, both through the unique soundscape and through the approach. Even more than Hoera. this project is a true exponent of the slow-motion movement. Book of Air exists in two versions: there is the Fieldtone quintet, and then there is the strapping vvolk, where some eighteen musicians ‘combine to form a single cloud of slowly moving sounds’.

Vvolk has already appeared in various forms, but really comes into its own during the concerts set in unique locations (like a church), during which the audience lies on the ground. The musicians take the audience on an intimate journey of at least two hours, based on the principle of ‘slow music’. By slowing down the parameter of time, the audience undergoes a sensory, almost spiritual experience. Book of Air’s expanded and varied instrumentation ensures a particularly layered sound: on the one hand very open, on the other utterly compact.

But granvat is not only the creative playground of the Cools brothers. While a project like vvolk can only work with a vast line-up, JK’s Kamer has to rely on the solo performance and on sound design. A couple of musicians from the granvat stable have already lent their services to this project. One of the most remarkable is Niels Van Heertum, who uses his euphonium and electronica to produce a delightful slowing-down record full of cinematic soundscapes.

Ultimately, granvat doesn’t limit itself to slow-motion music: the range extends from minimalist and acoustic soundscapes to exuberant electronica (check out Pudding oO), and even world music or folk. For instance, granvat has produced a unique solo album by Hariprasad Chaurasia, the Indian master of the bansuri. They have also produced the album of the duo Solo & Indre, a rare combination of kora and kanklės. Not to mention Merope, a singular mix of Lithuanian folk music, improvisation and electronica with which Bert Cools has toured as far as South Korea. It’s clear: sticking a label on granvat’s musical portfolio is no easy matter!

Contact information

Bert Cools
+32 (0)484 98 53 43


Foto: (c) Mark Rietveld

Pieter Koten

Pieter Koten is a jazz promoter at KAAP Creative Compass (Bruges/Ostend).

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