Graaff – Poaaff: The Attic Chronicles

(2017 self released)

1: The Black Hole (9:29)
2: Intermezzo 1 (A Friendly Face) (3:06)
3: Backwards (5:47)
4: Intermezzo 2 (A Bee Roll) (3:05)
5: Liquid (9:45)
6: Intermezzo 3 (Percussion 101) (1:49)
7: Get Jeff Back (5:56)
8: Intermezzo 4 (Six Or Four) (3:51)
9: One Afternoon Walk (8:33)
10: The Final Grand (11:34)

If you enjoy the music of Soft Machine or Jeff Beck, or jazz-rock in general, then stay on the line; it’s for your own good. Even the average music enthusiast will undoubtedly find plenty to enjoy on the album being discussed here. But what are we actually talking about? Let’s get some information.

“Poaaff: The Attic Chronicles” from 2017 is the second album by drummer Dennis de Graaff. What’s remarkable about all his albums (at the time of writing there are six of them) is that he hasn’t touched a drumstick on any of them. De Graaff does everything with plug-ins, absolutely everything. Even the drums what you hear is purely knob manipulation but my oh my it sounds incredible. I can say with certainty that I’ve never heard a drum machine programmed so fantastically. It’s a dynamic succession of everything that makes drumming so interesting. Triplets, paradiddles, syncopation, intricate rhythms, tasty grooves and sharp fills, they are abundant.

The foundation of the album goes back to the jams that De Graaff had with Ronald Post, a friend and guitarist, between 1998 and 2004. They worked on five substantial jazz-rock compositions of their own.

In the years that followed De Graaff reworked these jams with various rearrangements creating something like remakes. So, there is no audible trace of the original recordings on the album. However, in terms of inspiration De Graaff has stayed as close as possible to the musical ideas of his friend using his guitar plug-ins. These parts have immense depth, exquisite virtuosity and a great deal of taste. Additionally he has added four interludes and a grand finale to the album.

Often you see that extremely talented musicians are not necessarily equally skilled composers. But that does not apply to De Graaff at all; this crafty drummer is a brilliant composer. I even briefly thought that the material was from the big names, that’s how good it is. Everything sounds streamlined and adorned with strong melodies and harmonies. De Graaff has meticulously crafted and developed the music with the utmost care. It is truly a blessing that he has maximized his creativity.

The opener The Black Hole immediately captivates you with the sound of a fretless bass guitar and a few cinematic metal riffs after a minimalist minute. The actual song that follows is a delightful accumulation of Jeff Beck-like guitar sounds. The impressive Backwards (not the Soft Machine song) features a remarkable passage with a light-hearted groove. This moment emphasizes the jam-like character of the music and it’s impressive for a solo effort. With the amusingly titled Get Jeff Back, De Graaff seems to pay homage to the mighty guitarist Jeff Beck but that’s actually the case throughout the entire album. Among the five tracks based on the jams One Afternoon Walk is, in my opinion, the most enjoyable.

The interludes are shorter less complex songs in line with the main tracks. They serve as excellent diversions since the larger material demands a lot of your attention. One slightly oddball is Intermezzo 3 (Percussion 101). Here we hear a cinematic foundation of keys overlaid with a ton of drums. It’s the delightful De Graaff suspense that we will hear more of, particularly on his “Storm” album. The album concludes with the epic The Final Grand, where De Graaff tickles you half to death with his awe-inspiring plug-ins. It’s enough to make you go crazy, I say, with thumbs held high.

Now that the review has come to an end a digital sprint to the play button is unavoidable. Just do it; it’s for your own good.

Dennis de Graaff: plug-ins

© Dick van der Heijde 2023