This is a second time when I am listening to KSQ music, both recordings had been cut off for Berlin based independent Traumton records label. Bern based Quartet appeared to me as highly virtuoso formation from the very first time and this latest appeal only affirm that conviction. Three years passed since and to be perfectly honest I listened to that music a lot meanwhile, so seeing that new one coming was nothing but the water for my hunger-mill.
Here we have a mix of both: compositions coming from the band members as well as other composer’s literature, for example their compatriot Nik Bartsch, one of another favourite young band-leaders. Or Mathias Ruegg, legendary founder and director of the Vienna Art Orchestra. Let’s start from those then. Modul 17 originally written for Ronin appeared at least few times on their recordings. It is very minimalist piece of music, with repetitive rhythm and very precise timing. Quartet arrangement is very lyrical, and it drags out a lot of melody from the music. Original is more mathematical in its precision. By the harmony built on strings the music gets drive from bowed chords in unison rather than Nik’s piano chops. Music sounds a little like a Different Trains (by S. Reich) performed by Kronos Quartet, to make some valid point of the reference.
Alles Walzer, as it is a case with an orchestral piece sounds much bigger and multi melodic as might be expected. The richness of the original demands from musicians even more creativity and to cover those needs the music is performed not just with the traditional Quartet expression, but also with use of voices merged with the bowed them as well as a lot of percussive effects added to the tissue. But it also draws a lot from a Balkan folk in the same time and those Rubato movements are bringing some nice colourants. The same can be said about quotes from Vivaldi and Menuhin, put into the tune with very specific sense of humour.
Another minimalist piece I enjoyed a lot is a closing Iceland. It tastes like a breeze and the sense of sort of like being hung in a fog is beautifully brushed by the bows. Illustrative nature goes further with the motoric movements between the melody lines acting little bit like choruses in the symphonic piece. In climax violin solo makes fantastic harmony with remaining three voices coming into the culmination with perfectly controlled tension and certain trace of distortion to counterpoint a purity of coming after unison.
But my absolute favourite of that recording is the one called Introspection, from the pen of violinist David Schnee. It is wonderful melody which flies over the accompaniment of the others playing gentle pizzicato in the background to join the conversation later, one by one. The tension and an emotional balance of the tune is insanely beautiful and the merge of freedom with slightly Appalachian, slightly Balkan with the classical chamber music bowing routine and romantic articulation is nothing but hypnotising you. Listening to it is like spinning around in the middle of the meadows and watching the sun through the closed eyelids.
I am having long time affair with Stark – Linnemann Quartet right now and it is a rather very pleasant one. Previously reviewed Chopin Recordings I, II and III were both beautifully re-worked and executed in a equally sophisticated way. The same can be said about, today’s already classic Liszt’s Piano Sonata in B minor, which started Paul’s journey into classical music transcriptions some six years back from where we are now.
I was looking forward to getting my hands on that one badly, not just because I know what the band is capable of, but also due to it is such a well-known and so many times re-worked piece of music, what raises the bar significantly. And, I mean so many did it, from great composers who are Iconic themselves to Pop or Rock Stars. I drop all those stories as well as the original one about The Pictures as it is widely recognised, and if not, it is easy to trace if someone needs to. The snippet of music which came in the middle of the summer only spiced my appetite, so when I finally had heard it I was gobsmacked not only with the music itself and the way it had been made, but also by the fact that I could see that the style they created is now a matured hallmark which I can recognise, What do I mean by that, then ? Just listen.
Let’s start from the most dance of the Pictures, the Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks. Paul previously already was mixing Latin music dances into his classical re- arrangements, so listening to the little Rhumba illustrating this there I was delighted to see the consequence in his work as well consistence in his style. Keeping the right balance between the funky rhythm and an infantilism of the sketched soundscape is the biggest strength there.
Other is Tuileries, second most joyful of the entire suite. Here the theme comes after percussion intro, brought gently by the clarinet again. And not before the bluesy rhythm had been introduced by the double bass. But this is clearly Linnemann’s show off. Here from the silky intro, sounding like sunrays going between the branches to the Brubeck’s Quartet alike sound meets Miles Davis Lift to The Scaffold. All dynamism and emotions of those interactions are sketched by his brushes. Paul introduces the Ball-room theme with his piano like a cruise ship in the turquoise oceanic depths.
Coming after Bydlo, by all the contrast brings immediate image of heavy toil and hard work effort by repetitive piano clusters joined by Iman Spaargaren’s tenor saxophone. Then repeating the lines through the chord progressions, a and wind improvisation bringing the image of disturbance, is nothing but excellence!
Following Goldberg and Schmule, again makes us dance, but to an entirely different melody. What starts like Juan Tizol’s Caravan becomes wonderfully moved by Spaargaren’s clarinet into Hasidic folk tune, driven by the rhythm like from an Ellington-esque Far East Suite. Another little gem blending together decades of Jazz with Orchestral heritage, Indian Raga and Judaic tunes. All again the music which had been originally written to bring a joy to the hearts and move your feet.
The main framework of the Work, its pillars should I say, are obviously the break outs named Promenades, total five out of sixteen orchestral pieces makes it one/third of the music.
Here SLQ doesn’t disappoint either, bringing a wonderful makeover to each of them when in the same time manage to prevent the tension they build in the original score. First oscillates between Ravel’ian piano reverb holding stridden Bolero rhythm and clarinet and drums shifting tempo into the gentle Bossa, Transition never happens and the balance between those two worlds holds the tension.
Second starts in Bill Evans attributing Piano Trio style. Paul’s melancholic and imaginative piano intro turns into the Waltz, which again by differential tension on keys relying on gentle Linnemann’s drumming steps like bare feet on the carpet.
Third is pure Blues, and the rhythmic intervals are just wonderful, section goes on like Mint Hinton and Jeff “Tain” Watts at their best. My heart is just growing like an elephant.
Forth is just a short interlude, lasting hardly 52 seconds, but it is stepping into the dark with heavy, Milonga like, sadness.
When I just guided you through nine images, there is still seven more waiting to be discovered by careful, sensitive listener. I don’t want to spare you of all that pleasure. All of them are real gems worth effort to find them. This is simply an exquisite approach which SLQ completed here and to me this CD is already a classic, right in line with the best Mussorgsky’s interpretations created in the past. Hats off.
Matanzas is a Noir project by. Adrián de Alfonso a.k.a Don The Tiger.It is you today’s journey to the heart of Matanzas, the Cuban town which gave us Arsenio de Rodriques, the father of the modern Rumba. It is also an interesting journey inside of himself. Living today in Berlin the artist doesn’t hide the fact he misses his home city Barcelona, with all the naturalness and life as such as it is going on the streets. He sings about a loneliness and searching, but not finding.
The makeover of those inner concerns is happening through the prism of dances, like Cuban Rumba, Argentinian Tango or Catalan Sardana or Bolero. Half of the contest is instrumental, and half comes with the lyrics. Aesthetics is very 90’s and very Crammed Discs as well with the use of ambient arrangements and synthetized sounds made on ancient MIDIs. It touches many sentimental notes and digs out a lot of memories for the generation like mine which identifies itself with it.
An opening Chants to the Shrinking Aral with lovely Bolero rhythm driving the song and dreamy synth-ed artefacts plan is a sad love song directed to the Love from de pasado, waved with the memories of past and now, half dreamed, half imagined. Half real and half hallucinogenic. In the best tradition of Tuxedomoon. Adrian’s dark and slightly dry voice also reminds me a lot of Blaine L. Reininger’s one, with the thrashing and the way that accents are put into the lyrics.
Twisted on the Sand coming after appears as a instrumental landscape with lot of synthetized tissue in it, but after breaking bass chord teamed up with an ominous rumble slowly changing into Santo Subito recitative. That one has a special meaning to me as it gets back to the days of death of JP the 2nd, the Polish Pope, who as it turns out today kept hiding Crimes of Paedophilia in a Catholic Church and with context of today’s finding about Vatican’s involvement in money laundry, human trafficking and another criminal activities gains really special meaning, going much further than possibly artist intended.
Instrumental miniature called New Galician Dance, with its retro – sounding chops put into the Sol rhythmic structure can be seen today as a precursor of what became today Reggaeton.
Eyes Dry as Horns, another instrumental piece sounds a bit like twisted Fugue played on Moogs in an acoustic space far different that a usual Cathedral reverb. Disturbed with a mix of distorted electronic sounds it comes out as an interesting suite. Again, very much like Planet Tuxedomoon and Ian Brown’s side trips.
Another “song” which struck me has only few verses and I should rather call it recitative. But with a strange title (Arturo Velez’s 15th Fever) and an apocalyptic vision of the nature dying on our eyes spelled into few lines it strikes hard, as this is the World we do see today.
So, is that farewell said to the mortal world, through the tears, with some dancing rhythms bringing a memory of the good days, or sentimental journey into the Latin heritage with a grid of salt to counterpoint? I guess each of us have to answer it to himself, and it will all depends on ones very own sensitivity. So far it is the most Modern Dance Macabre I noticed
Release: February 2nd
Veronika Harcsa & Bálint Gyémánt Shapeshifter
With two albums to date (Lifelover and Tell Her), duo Veronika Harcsa and Bálint Gyémánt have thrilled the press and audiences since 2014. “Allaboutjazz.com said: Harcsa is an amazingly versatile musician, a brilliant vocalist and gifted entertainer in the best sense.” The MDR said: “Harcsa’s voice oscillates in very different colours. […] Once she sounds like the jazzy sister of Alanis Morissette and the next moment she becomes a spherical siren. “And in the magazine Audio was read:” Tell Her is a commitment to the artistic peculiarity, but beyond that a chamber music laboratory of styles that enchants and shapes the fragile texts, the clear, radiant timbre of the voice and the cautious yet complex music. Fascinatingly barren and powerful at the same time. “
Minua – Still Light
When two guitarists and a woodwind decide to start a trio, they probably have unconventional sound ideas. Why else dare such an original band idea? When Luca Aaron, Kristinn Kristinsson and Fabian Willmann first played together in 2014 in a rehearsal room at the University of Basel, they immediately felt a deep bond. “It was almost like salvation to find people in high school life who wanted to play something else,” smiles Aaron. The trio’s strong, multi-directional design will feed on various influences. Some have inspired everyone, others are more personal. To name the most important ones: post-rock, minimalism à la Steve Reich, Nordic melancholy and Scandinavian folk, as well as unusual timbres and blends, created through advanced playing techniques and targeted electronics.
“And now Something Completely Different “, as Monty Pythons used to say. I didn’t quote that without reason however. The mix of gags, skills, techniques and endless looking for a way to expand self-expression results it creating recording which challenges the listener by constant shift of gears and moods. First to start with is that Fabiana’s Trio is unusual itself containing a violin, piano and vocalist. Second to occur is that all those musicians do have solid classical conservatory background, but despite that they have a great need to explain their inner/other selves and boundaries of their artistic personalities. The more you listen to that music the more obvious it becomes. The more also you peel out as complexity of the compositions and multiple techniques and expression are attracting the attention first and kind of protecting the core.
Just to give you a clue, an opening Intro is a lovely harmony merging vocalise of Frederike Merz with leader nostalgic bowing. It lasts hardly a minute and leaves you with a hunger for more. Coming after Milky Way is another little jewel, even shorter, played on the prepared strings and made of gentle distortions which all together become a harmony. Takes skill to make it so profound and so grotesque in the same time.
Two next pieces are outstanding show off for Merz’s vocal qualities. First Morning Star, makes a fantastic expression in a Schumann ’esque style with outstanding freshness coming out of perfectly articulated lyrics and synth’ed guitar accompaniment.
Second called Sennergluck, mixes things from all over the world. You can hear Appalachian strings there starting with pizzicato intro making tapestry for a joyful vocalise and flying from folk infantility to seriously elegant string phrasing. With piano counterpoint it almost turns into an elegant dance.
First of the highlights comes however with sung in Spanish Madness of a Full Moon Night, with lyrics adopted from Diego L.Monachelli. Here the romanticism of the trio approached in connection with unexpected twist of the rhythm and the melody lines are making it into a proper Cabinet of Dr.Caligari’s. Merz’s dreamy vocalisation of the poem, sung with a truly operatic extension of the vocal powers and huge range swivels between German expressionism and the straight beauty of a I. Albéniz’s songs.
Another comes with Eigensinning, the piece ecstatically spreading between the sound of the modern string quartet and Ibero-influenced flamenco rhythms with gypsy libertinism mixed with a Balkan vitality. Singing here m, again is again a proper tour de force and it becomes obvious that Fabiana wrote these pieces with Merz’s voice in mind. The same applies to The Spaceship Over Nusa Penida, the minimalistic piece with a spirit of Terry Riley flying over the notes and bravado conversations between the violin and vocce, flying from scat to onomatopoeic drama ala Lauren Newton.
But the coolest momentum comes when the recording reaches its climax with the title Sweet and So Solitary. This Noir song with theatrical Voice Theatre accompanied by decadent piano and some seriously disturbing fiddling moves from the Blues to the Rumba, with the ecstatic momentum touching the Circus of Madness and the Freedom of God’s Creation
Wah Wah 45s are very proud to announce the release of the debut album from forward-thinking Tel Aviv based ensemble, Time Grove. Guided by acclaimed pianist Nitai Hershkovits alongside one third of Buttering Trio, and newly signed Stones Throw recording artist, Rejoicer, this group of musicians have produced a sound which is both delicate yet powerful; sonorous yet uplifting. The full line-up also features reed player Eyal Talmudi, drummers Roy Chen, Amir Bresler and Sol Monk, keyboard master Bemet, trumpeter Sefi Zisling, and guitarist Yonatan Albalak who have together created some of the most exciting instrumental music we’ve heard for quite a while!
Release: January 25th
RaaDie – Vast potential
If you think you already know all sorts of unusual and unusual combinations of instruments and styles, you can now – for fun at least – think for a minute: have you ever heard of an album by trumpet and e-zither? The idea may seem a bit oblique at first glance. Translated by Lorenz Raab and Christof Dienz, however, it sounds as conclusive as it is exciting.
Release: January 25th
“Big, colorful ear cinema” (WAZ, Essen)
Tamara Lukasheva is considered beyond her generation as one of the outstanding voices of German jazz. Her unusually agile vocal expressiveness, which has been precisely refined over the past 15 years, not only leaves a deep impression on the jazz-savvy audience. Lukasheva’s music is independent and variable, moving in the field of tension of strong melodies, Eastern European influences, dynamic improvisation and emphasis.