Cully Jazz festival 2016 – Switzerland gets down to bizniz (day 3)

AKKU Quintet – Chapiteau, Cully, 10/4/16


@J-C Arav

Supporting a very traditional jazz vocalist, (Dianne Reeves), the Akku Quintet played as a very untraditional ‘jazz’ quintet – holding their weight very well as the alternative, slightly dark option on the Cully musical menu. A year ago the band were described as a work in progress, today the quintet comes across as a well-oiled machine full of maturity and articulation.

Underpinned by a definite focus on rhythmic and repetitive elements laid down essentially by the drums and keyboards, this quintet is not in a hurry. Their spacious, unhurried approach leaves plenty of room for interplay between all members who get to shine in totally different ways at very different times.



@J-C Arav

The most attention-grabbing sound is Markus Ischer’s electric guitar which verges towards the psychedelic and is played out to full effect, fuelling the terms ‘jazz rock’ and ‘jazz fusion’ that the band is often labelled with.

Some of the sound particles in the Akku atmosphere are made of of bleeps, hallucinogenic wails, squeaky outbursts. Music to immerse yourself in like a rich, pulsating heart-beat which occasionally slows down, skips and jerks. As Jonas Fehr’s live visuals suggest, the molecules are in gradual full expansion. Expect a new LP from Akku Quintet in spring 2017.

Some questions and answers with AKKU Quintet drummer and bandleader, Manuel Pasquinelli:
Describe the musical dynamics within the quintet

@J-C Arav

Manuel Pasquinelli: We are a quintet with saxophone, but the the sax is not the only leading instrument. The focus on an instrument changes all the time. We are all leading at different times, each member influences the whole thing. Groove and mood are as important as the solos. A solo is always part of the composition and leads from one part to the other. We try to create a piece of music as a journey. We leave space and don’t always play everything we could. We don’t tell a prefabricated story to the listener, so that the listener can derive their own story or mood.

Do you think you fit easily into the ‘jazz’ genre?

Manuel Pasquinelli: People often say to me “I don’t usually like jazz, but I really like what you do”,  so I think that ‘jazz’ is maybe not the right word to describe our music. It’s minimal, ambient, rock with the playfulness of jazz, influenced by different kinds of music (from Nik Bärtsch to Steve Reich, Yann Tiersen, Pink Floyd and beyond).

Akku Quintet “Molecules”

Band members:

Manuel Pasquinelli – drums & composition
Michael Gilsenan – sax
Markus Ischer – guitar
Maja Nydegger – keys
Andi Schnellmann – bass
Jonas Fehr – live visuals

Akku Quintet “Molecules”

Akku QuintetMaja Nydegger’s delicate piano sets up a repetitive motif
As readers may know, I like space in music. When I first saw a group of Swiss artists jam with the legendary saxophonist, John Surman, the most impressive were those who knew when to ‘shut it’, to avoid an ugly cacophony. Akku Quintet share this sensitivity and aren’t afraid to step away from the mic. Formed by drummer, Manuel Pasquinelli in 2010, Molecules is the quintet’s second release on Pasquinelli’s own label, Morpheus. It’s an EP more than an album and my sense is they are a band in development.

They carefully creep into each track, as in ‘Fluid’ and ‘Schneeman’ when Maja Nydegger’s delicate piano sets up a repetitive motif, almost acting as a mantra for the piece. This is perfectly balanced by the tenor saxophone of Thierry Lüthy who has an assured and warm tone. His notes waft around the piano melody as if the two are in a quiet conversation. When he builds to a sort of circular breathing in ‘Phase Transitions’ it brings a ripple of excitement.

Guitarist Markus Ischer soars through with a woozy-stoned solo
Despite being Pasquinelli’s project he keeps his crisp beats sparse, playing a supportive role and taking time before coming in with off beats, mini-patterns, or simple, unadorned snare and bass drums. Considering the power an electric bass can wield I was rarely aware of it, Andi Schnellmann excels at enmeshing his sound into the others’ like a soft echo of the music.

The best moments come when they suddenly switch the vibe, such as in ‘Schneemann’ when six minutes in, guitarist Markus Ischer soars through with a woozy-stoned solo and Maja subtly responds with low church organ chords and pithy alien-like beeps. Markus Ischer’s guitar is the strongest voice, it resembles Lüthy’s consciousness but with extra drive. He interrupts ‘Phase Transitions’ with a warbling and affected guitar before changing his touch with metallic stabs and long haunting notes, keeping you entranced.

AkkuQuintetMoleculesThere’s a need to develop grit and emotional vulnerability
Akku are creating soundscapes with tracks lasting 10 to 15 minutes (apart from the quirky and jaunty, ‘Freeze’), however, at times I wanted them to turn up the intensity, the music could become so laid back I became disengaged. There’s a need to develop grit and emotional vulnerability in their themes and playing. They are working with media artist Jonas Fehr for their live shows and I liked the cover artwork by Sandro Galli. Pasquinelli has invested in a limited edition of hand-printed covers for the vinyl edition but his next focus should be developing the band’s voice so it stays relevant and is not shy of demanding to be heard.

Akku Quintet website
Akku Quintet Bandcamp

07.04.2015    Freiburg (DE)
08.04.2015    E-Werk – Freiburg (DE)
09.04.2015    Lagerhaus (mediencoop) – Bremen (DE)
11.04.2015    Cafe Fincan – Berlin (DE)
12.04.2015    Stellwerk – Hamburg (DE)
13.04.2015    Jäzzzeit Im Heimathirsch – Köln (DE)
15.04.2015    Immerhin – Würzburg (DE)
16.04.2015    Early Bird – Innsbruck (AUT)

16.05.2015    Orbital Garden  – Bern (CH)  (playing Music By Don Li)

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