x-legged sally

Killed by Charity


CD digipack


X-Legged Sally is a Belgian avant-garde rock/jazz-band founded in 1988 by composer Peter Vermeersch, and disbanded in 1997. They were one of the first bands from Belgium to combine a set of very different musical styles (jazz, rock, improvisation and classical), becoming a starting point for the Belgian indie music scene that developed in the nineties.

Initially, X-Legged Sally was formed to compose and perform the music Peter Vermeersch wrote for dance productions, such as Immes das Selbe Gelogen (Always the Same Lies), released as a live cd in 1991. Vermeersch' composing style was becoming too demanding for the constraints of sheet music such as was used in his earlier band Maximalist!. From the beginning, improvisation played an important role in XLS' songs. The first X-Legged Sally concert took place in November 1988. Soon, XLS became a band in its own right, although there would be cooperations with dance ensembles throughout the existence of the group.

Based on the international success of Maximalist!, X-Legged Sally had the chance to perform in the New York avant-garde Jazz club Knitting Factory, and a live track was included in the recording Live at the Knitting Factory, vol. 4 (1990). The New York connection proved fruitful, as the two first XLS recordings, Slow-Up (1991) and Killed by Charity (1993) were both produced by Bill Laswell. This also meant international attention and distribution, a rare thing for Belgian bands in the early nineties.
The third full album, Eggs and Ashes (1994), contained music written earlier for three different dance productions of Wim Vandekeybus' company Ultima Vez: Immer das Selbe Gelogen (1991), Her body doesn't fit her soul (1993) and Mountains made of barking (1994). This cd is also notorious for featuring the young Mauro Pawlowski on vocals in the waltz Lulu.

Peter Vermeersch - Clarinet, Vocals
Pierre Vervloesem - Guitar, Vocals
Jean-Luc Plouvier - Keyboards
Michel Mast - Saxophone
Bart Maris - Trumpet
Paul Belgrado - Bass
Danny Van Hoeck - Drums

Produced by Bill Laswell
Engineered by Oz Fritz
Mastered by Howie Weinberg

All tracks written by Peter Vermeersch

Recorded and mixed at Greenpoint Studio, Brooklyn, New York, July 1993. Published by Sub Rosa in 1994.

The lineup was changed a bit since Slow-Up, but these hopped-up Belgians seemed intent on displaying -- right off the bat -- that their predilection toward manic musical behavior was still intact. Killed by Charity begins with a literal wake-up call -- a rooster crowing -- and listeners are immediately jerked from their reveries by "Eddies," a minute and a half of pure mayhem executed with sublime precision. With rapid-fire runs from guitarist Pierre Vervloesem and off-kilter rhythmic punctuations blasting out from the rest of the band, the track seems intended to display how X-Legged Sally might just be the tightest band in the world, rather than the outfit with the most hot-wired groove. As the record proceeds, it becomes clear that saxophones are less important to the overall sound than on Slow-Up -- Michel Mast is the only saxophonist remaining from the debut disc. Alto saxman Eric Sleichim is gone and bandleader Peter Vermeersch is now featured only on clarinet, dropping the tenor sax. Also notable is the first appearance by trumpeter Bart Maris, whose presence gives a brighter and punchier attack to all that riffing (and thankfully, Bill Laswell's production is now better-balanced and less bass-heavy). But more notable than the shift from three saxes to sax, clarinet, and trumpet is the generally harder-rockin' approach of Killed by Charity when compared to Slow-Up, as unbelievable as that may seem to anyone who's only heard the first disc. This is evident in the distorted metal-styled crunch of Vervloesem's guitar and the bigger role given to keyboardist Jean-Luc Plouvier, who contributes Hammond B-3 voicings to the rhythmically skewed "Am Tisch!" and who rocks out with a fiery piano solo on the infectiously danceable title track. And then there's Vermeersch's two vocal numbers: "Still Life With Ray" and "Break Too"; he yammers and yowls his way through the tunes in suitably over-the-top fashion, like a twisted new waver who took a few lessons from David Byrne in the eccentricity department (and with lyrics that have similar existential preoccupations). But harking back to the best moments of Slow-Up, the high points of Killed by Charity remain a batch of instrumental tracks that are remarkably written, arranged, and performed -- complex and multi-dimensional yet with the types of melodies, hooks, and grooves that made the first album so engaging. "Spix & Chaco," "Bleedproof," and "It's a Baby" would all have been strong tracks on Slow-Up, and they are highlights here. Also noteworthy are the LP's occasional moments of subtlety (few as they are), including the jazzy waltz "Did You Get Your Milk, Stewart?," with its breakfast-time-with-baby vocal sample, and the brief album-closing "Shedded," a brass band-styled ditty scored for baritone sax, clarinet, and trumpet. And while there was humor in Slow-Up, here it is more overt, as in the irreverent cover of Hal David/Burt Bacharach's "The Look of Love" (the LP's only non-original track), played with dirge-like drums and nausea-inducing reharmonizations (they apparently were denied use of an alternate title, "The Look of Death"). Killed by Charity is about 20 minutes shorter than Slow-Up, but somehow the album seems to have nearly as many ideas crammed into its comparatively brief length. Not quite up to the peerless quality of the band's debut, but a strong offering nonetheless, Killed by Charity proved that there would be no sophomore slump for X-Legged Sally.
Dave Lynch / All Music Guide




01 Eddies 1:26
02 Dum Dum 3:34
03 Still Life With Ray 3:38
04 Spix & Chaco 4:19
05 The Shah Of Blah 2:51
06 Bleedproof 5:54
07 Break Too 3:59
08 Did You Get Your Milk, Stewart? 2:31
09 Mysterious Angelic Voices 2:56
10 Am Tisch 2:16
11 The Look Of Love 3:28 (Burt Bacharach / Hal David)
12 Killed By Charity 4:22
13 It's Baby 4:43
14 Shedded 1:22