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)

Le Pot «She»

LePot_She_CoverThe system has crashed and we nervously float through a spiral galaxy

Le Pot’s album is the first of a planned trilogy, SheHeraZade. After crossing paths in outfits such as Manuel Mengis‘ Gruppe 6, they committed to this project with Mengis on trumpet and electronics, Hans-Peter Pfammatter playing Moog and synthesisers, drummer Lionel Friedli and Manuel Troller on electric guitar. This instalment, She, has thrown off the shackles of melody and musical convention and is driven by atmosphere, environment, feeling. The electronics provide a subtle, post-Apocalyptic white noise; the system has crashed and we nervously float through a spiral galaxy.

This interplay creates expansive landscapes

Ariel Alert sets up the ride with its cacophony of smashing cymbals and firing drum rolls, psyched-out guitar and trumpet, part-quivering, part-soaring. It leads into the track I keep re-playing, Part 1 Desert Whale Song. A sublime sound-piece where the ever-present electronics are so subtle you can’t tell where the instruments stop and they begin. This interplay creates expansive landscapes and mysterious visions: here the band appears as a disorientated submarine in the deepest of pitch-black oceans. The denouement escalates to an animalistic attack of Mengis’ braying brass, distorted guitar and drum blows, that had me on the edge of my seat.

Electronics are the threads invisibly sewing it all together

Throughout the album, the trumpet chatters, squeals, cries in pain but rarely sings – there is a sense of skilful playing and a wilful rejection of tradition, although I could sense echoes of ‘electric Miles’ (Davis). It is perfectly matched by the guitar’s imaginings: from fuzzy strums to almost inaudible bending notes and tripped-out chords. The drumming is a-rhythmical, barging into the argument with its own opinions; sparse and jagged, whilst the synths and electronics are the threads invisibly sewing it all together into a dark collage.


An echoing guitar drives the track off the cliff into freefall

It’s as if their idea is to drag music back in time to primal grunts or break it even further down into fizzing atoms. They are not always successful in this, but what I am taken by is the quartet’s commitment to space in their music; they allow each sound to breathe and exist even when they build to discordant climaxes such as in Part II Phili’s Boat Bursting or Gezinkt Sind Wir Alle. In this piece the instruments intensify their squabbling chatter; bass notes underpinning frantic trumpet squeals and insistent electric loops, before an echoing guitar drives the track off the cliff into freefall. There is almost a sense of post-punk electronica here with keyboards, guitar and drums uniting in a vague melody.

This is what I think should have been developed – a more tangible shape, even if for one track in order to pull the album back from drifting into clever noodling. Having said that, I enjoyed the trip very much and am looking forward to Hera – which the band say will be an acoustic reflection on the motives of the British composer Benjamin Britten. Le Pot are a band we should all be keeping our ears open for.

Le Pot             Everest Records


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