Reynols celebrated their 30th anniversary in 2023, and although I had never heard of the group before, I was invited to interview Reynols’ guitarist at a retrospective exhibition about the band in gr’Ambacht in Mechelen. It was a good way to be introduced to the work of a project that should be called remarkable at the very least.
Reynols is actually conceptual art. Just like Laibach, I would dare to say, although there is no musical connection between the two bands, nor any conceptual connection. The concept is just more important than the music, and that may explain why Reynols also generates boundless enthusiasm among followers, which culminates in extensive analyzes of the group's work.
I think Reynols’ concept could be summarized as ‘celebrating the absurdity of existence’. That is a slogan that I am very much in favor of, but I do not know to what extent the group agrees with it. Absurdity and coincidence are certainly important qualities of their work, as I hope to make clear to you.
Allow me to make it clear with a number of projects from Reynols itself. In 1995 they released the very first ‘dematerialized CD’, a record that disintegrated just before you could listen to it, and which no soul has ever actually heard. This also applies to the cassette from 2003, of which they only put the tape in a plastic bag with artwork. Anyone who wanted to listen had to assemble the tape themselves into a cassette, which is almost an impossible task.
Other feats include a public performance using pumpkins as amplifiers, recordings of various types of blank cassettes, a chicken symphony based on recordings in a gigantic chicken coop, recordings of a quartet of kettles, of the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Père Lachaise cemetery and even our own Atomium, or deportation orders from when Reynols was refused entry to the UK.
I have previously written extensively about Reynols, but I return to them because the English magazine TQ Zine has made a special around Reynols’ 30th anniversary, which contains an extensive report of the exhibition in gr’Ambacht, curated by Laurent Cartuyvels. The exhibition has subsequently visited other locations, including Newcastle, the home city of TQ Zine founder Andy Wood.
Andy Wood and TQ Zine had paid attention to Reynols in the past, including with a Reynols special issue and bonus CDs from Reynols with the magazine, published by the related label TQ N-aut. And yes, this edition also includes a CD, with the recording of nothing less than Reynols’ performance in Mechelen at the opening of the exhibition, to which I will return to later. Title of the CD: ‘Live In Mechelen - A TQ Zine Subscriber Exclusive’.
When I open the supplementary booklet, the catalog of the exhibition, I immediately notice a 0 euro note with an image of Reynols, which I will happily use next time I don't want to buy anything. In the introductory interview with Andy Wood, the founder of TQ Zine, I can already read that it is almost impossible to know, let alone own, all of Reynols' records.
The review of the exhibition in Mechelen was written by Tony Van Dorst, which brings me back to ‘Gordura Vegetal Hidrogenada’, the famous dematerialized CD from 1995. Tony was so enthusiastic about the non-existent record that he made versions of it on cassette, 8-track, memory card, stamp and even a digital version. Anyone who scanned the QR code of the digital code received a message that their files have also just vanished.
I am already flattered that Tony writes that, despite my very recent introduction to Reynols, I started the interview well prepared. I remember there was some stress. The intention was to do an interview with guitarist Alan Courtis, who was present in Mechelen, but also with second guitarist Roberto Conlazo, who would participate via a connection from Buenes Aires in Argentina.
Because there was a very strict time limit on the internet connection, and the duo was also scheduled to perform within this time frame, I had to improvise a bit and had to choose the most relevant questions on my list. After the performance I had the opportunity to ask Alan Courtis some more questions, but unfortunately the structure of the interview was ruined. On the other hand, there is no shortage of topics for discussion with Reynols, and the audience seems to have appreciated our conversation.
What worked well, despite the time limits, was the performance, synchronized from Mechelen and Buenos Aires. I assume that such a performance from two locations was not a scoop for Reynols, especially not in the aftermath of Covid, but it fits perfectly within the group's philosophy. Laurent Cartuyvels and Tony Van Dorst had the ingenuity to ask Courtis if they were permitted to record the performance, and so their recordings ended up being released in the form of a mini-CD -a 3" CDR – I can't remember how long ago it was that I heard of this format – with TQ Zine 64 as a bonus.
On Discogs I count 73 releases by the group, but that is without a doubt a gross underestimation. I've listened to quite a few of the group's more relevant works online, but this 3” CDR is the only physical record I own of the band. The exact quantity of this CDR release is unknown to me, but we do know that Courtis suggested that a minimum of three should be printed, so that this edition could also appear on Discogs.
The CDR contains an improvisation of about 17 minutes. It starts with a pre-recorded drum rhythm, of which it is initially unclear whether it comes from Miguel Tomasín, spiritual architect, drummer and singer of Reynols. Tomasín met Courtis and Conlazo during an improvisation session for people with disabilities. He introduced himself as the best drummer in the world and was promptly declared the figurehead of Reynols.
Within Reynols, Tomasín played an important role for many years, and his absurd view of the world inspired many of the band’s experiments. But Courtis emphasized that Tomasín’s role had been purely spiritual for some time, and that the group existed before Tomasín joined. In any case, Reynols was probably the first group with a frontman with Down syndrome.
Both guitarists go wild on the recording, which adds an additional dose of chaos. I can hear organ on the backing track, but also chaotic vocals, which perhaps, like the drums, come from Tomasín. Tomasín is therefore credited as contributing from ‘Space / Minecxio’. But whether it is really his contribution, and where and when it was recorded, I fear will remain a mystery for a long time.
I hope I haven't made you too eager to listen to this recording, because unfortunately it is only available to TQ Zine subscribers, and to myself as a rare exception. It's a recording of pure chaotic absurdity, and you can console yourself by listening to a lot of other and equally absurd recordings by Reynols. But if you want to listen specifically to this recording, you're in for a tough job.
PS: thanks to Tony Van Dorst for sending me the issue of TQ Zine and for helping me with the translation of this article.