The Vacuum

Ping O.D.
Whirlwind Recordings
Producer: Roeland Celis
Number of discs: 1


Roeland Celis – guitar
John O’Gallagher – alto sax
Sylvain Debaisieux – tenor saxophone
Karel Cuelenaere – piano/synth
Cyrille Obermüller – double bass
Gert-Jan Dreessen – drums


Recorded at Rockstar RecordingsB(May 6 – 15, 2022)
Mixed by Chiaran Verheyden
Mastered by Jørgen Træen
Produced by Chiaran Verheyden
Executive Producer – Michael Janisch
Photography by Lauren Marijnissen / Thomas van Caeneghem
Album Artwork – Mireille Robbe
Graphic Design – Mireille Robbe


paru le 15 septembre 2023


Guitarist, composer and bandleader Roeland Celis refuses to allow convention to restrict the flow of his adventurous creativity as he channels his diverse musicality into the unique ecosystem that he’s called Ping O.D. and its debut release The Vacuum. The name derives from the ‘Ping of Death’ cyber-attack strategy where the target is flooded with information, and also refers to the ‘ping’ of a submarines’ sonar exploring uncharted waters. Celis has gathered an all-star crew of musicians from the fertile scene in his native Belgium to join him on his sonic adventure into a land where the dynamics and freedom of improvisation can meet the power and intensity of progressive metal and the exciting rigor of twelve-tone theory. In a set of nine unique original compositions, storied rhythm team Cyrille Obermüller on bass and Gert-Jan Dreessen on drums join with pianist/producer Karel Cuelenaere to create a taught, rhythmically intricate foundation, upon which for Celis and sax player Sylvain Debaisieux create towering structures of improvisation. To complete the line-up, New Yorker John O’ Gallagher, whose daringly original approach to serialism helped inform Celis’ compositional approach, adds his unmistakable high-energy voice on alto sax. The results are a strikingly original fusion that’s challenging and accessible in equal measure.

Each of the tracks has a personal relevance for Celis. The stately, haunting ‘Mont Firmin’ is an introduction to the album and “a reference to my grandfather, who was called Firmin. At some point a building in his village was being demolished and the earth that was being extracted from the build became a pile of mud, resulting in a small hill on which children would play. My grandfather asked for this to happen, so the hill was jokingly named after him.” The metal influences emerge on ‘Night Liver’ which ‘refers to something a friend once said about staying up late at night and feeling more alive.’ The wide-ranging, dynamic ‘Heliocentric’, with its shredding solos, is dedicated to the fearless Copernicus, and Celis’ interest in science comes to the fore again as inspiration for The Vacuum’s title track: “A vacuum is intriguing to me because it’s the place where light can move easily while sound cannot exist.” ‘Bolbliksem’ is the Dutch word for ball lightning, and the track allows Celis to demonstrate his incendiary playing and fluid rhythmic concepts. “The music is quite dark and aggressive in a way, which made the title seem appropriate.” ’Where am I’ is “a little collage in which I took elements from Mont Firmin, together with structured tone clusters and a rigid bassline. It has a strange, disorienting vibe to it.” Celis has a simpler explanation for ‘Silvia’: “I’m a coffee geek. My espresso machine is a “Rancilio Silvia” – and that’s all.” ‘Surroundings’ is a structured group improvisation: “Being aware of what other people are playing, the surroundings, is necessary to create a good take of this piece”. Finally, the album closes with the hypnotic ‘Wind Farm’: “The constant rhythmical pattern in the guitar and drums made me think of a windmill.”

Each player brings their own personality to the music, but the overall concept and the flavor of the compositional approach are very much Celis’ own discovery. With its mixture of the subtlety of acoustic textures from the world of improvised music, the overwhelming power of electric rock, song-based structures alternating with compositional sophistication, and virtuosic high- octane blowing with precise, atmospheric arrangement, this album delivers an unforgettable holiday from the mundane and the predictable.