Thomas Olbrechts - Westrand

Why did you choose this place? Was this your idea or the idea of Christophe Albertijn, because Westrand is not a recording studio.

The place – Westrand, Dilbeek – has been chosen by Christophe Albertijn, producer of the work and founder of the new label HUIS. One month before the session Christophe told me he was planning a new series in which he would invite musicians to make solo-recordings. For each musician he would choose a different architectural context in which the musician, in his opinion, might fit. I told him I really liked the concept, thought he would call me in a few months or a year. Already a week after he sent me an email with a link to the Westrand building with the question: ‘What would you think about this?’. I said I would give it a try, so we decided to visit the building to explore the possibilities.

Westrand, of course, isn’t a recording studio, it’s an interesting example of brutalist architecture, completely structured out of concrete geometric shapes.

When I have to play a concert or record in a studio, a gallery, concert room or whatever space I don’t know yet, the first thing I do when I enter the space is whistle. It’s a kind of reflex that immediately tells me how tough the job is going to be; in the Westrand building I immediately knew it was going to work! The acoustics of the place are quite unique, the building has a soul! Christophe really made a good choice!

How do you see the relationship between the saxophone and the space where the instrument is recorded?

Both, the saxophone and the Westrand building are conceived out of cold inert materials: the saxophone out of metal – the Westrand building completely out of concrete.

The first impression you get when you enter the building is an almost serene distant coldness, a sense of tough solidity; when you make a sound you hear a cool echo which reminds of a church but sounds much more worldly. On the other hand the atmosphere in the Westrand building isn’t cold, there’s a certain warmth in it as well.

The saxophone isn’t a wooden flute, a clarinet, hobo or fagot – it’s an industrial version of these instruments. It sounds much sharper but can also reach a warmth that didn’t exist before. The Westrand building hasn’t got the warmth of a -let’s say- a wooden temple, it sounds more like a cave, but the acoustics of the spaces as I just said also reflect a hybrid warmness. If you blow the instrument in the ‘right’ way -and this was of course the exercise of the journey- you discover a kind of concrete double bass sound box.

Perhaps the saxophone and the building have this same stoic distance in common. At first sight they give the impression of being cold but a few moments after, when the instrument starts to breath or when you enter the space the soul of both comes to life.

The rough brutalistic character of the building makes a direct appeal: it wakes you up, demands a certain lucidity; it doesn’t make you nervous but makes you aware of yourself walking through the different spaces. Maybe the sound of the saxophone, yet how I hear the instrument, appeals to this same kind of involvement.