Kaos Protokoll, punk-jazz provocators

Photo by Brigitte Fässler

Photo by Brigitte Fässler

Swiss trio, Kaos Protocoll are fond of sweeping statements: « Punk-jazz provocators », « No concept as concept », « No track ends as it begins » – these are just some of their cheeky mantras aimed at focussing your listening toward the left-field attitude they strive to cultivate. Freshly released on the Prolog Music label, Questclamationmarks is their second LP which the band describe as being more mature, complex and mysterious than its previous little brother, largely inspired by a recent tour across Eastern Europe and Russia during which they excelled in their live performances, honing their various radical free-jazz, funk and electronic influences.

 

« Rough in attitude but very well structured »

The driving wheel behind this LP is British pianist and composer, Django Bates, a familiar name on the Swiss German jazz scene since his appointment as Professor of Jazz at HKB school in Bern. His role as producer came about after stumbling across the band during a live gig. Vague inflections of Loose Tubes-inspired mayhem sit well next to the chaotic, busy style that has become the band’s trademark, especially appreciated in live situ. But Prof Bates’ presence is gratefully felt here in the clarity of composition, arrangement and production, resulting in a body of work that is « rough in attitude but very well structured » to quote bass player Benedikt Wieland. The beast has not been totally tamed, just steered in a direction where the mish-mash of influences and barrage of sound have been refined, organised and, to some degree, conceptualized. As a result, it’s more of an unpredictable but elegant carousel ride, rather than a dirty punk collision course.

Enthusiastic, clean and fresh

A good case in point is the track « Ein Stück zum Mitsingen » – lots going on here: crazy bebop singing melodies, pounding wall of sound beats, furious sax à la Greg Osby, all chunky and funky with a definite giggle going on, wrapped up in a perfect package and just the right duration for the laugh to tickle. The sound is enthusiastic, clean and fresh. “Maybe you” is equally playful with its hide and seek game of tempo and style. Unusual, but not unsuitable German rap makes an appearance in “Pathos Ratlos featuring Baze”, a place where wobbly jazz synths and broken beat melodies suit the grave but not too serious poetic narrative. Winding down the ride is the melodica-friendly “Wiegelied”, a warm and soothing lullaby ending their enigmatic, confident journey.

A mercurial piece inspired by their concert in the secret Russian city

A short film has just been released to accompany “In the Secret City”, a mercurial piece inspired by their concert in the secret Russian city, K26. Benedikt Weiland explains: “A man runs through the secret city at night. He sees scenes that are independent of each other, very abstract and without clear identification. For example, a woman holding a flowerpot while a man is floating in the air! A horse, led by a non-recognizable prancing creature, a corpulent elderly man walks out of his house carrying a briefcase. Just as the song unravels different moods, so do the images which feature different worlds that somehow have a relationship and are linked together by the runner. The images are also a little bit chaotic, abstract and analogous to our sound!”

Unknown

 

Band:

Benedikt Wieland (bass, FX)

Marc Stucki (sax, melodica, FX)

Flo Reichle (drums, electronics)

 

 

Forthcoming live dates:

19/11/15 – Le Singe, Biel (CH)

20/11/15 – Jazzclub, Gera (DE)

21/11/15 – Cuba, Münster, (DE)

23/11/15 – Jazzclub, Abensberg, (DE)

24/11/15 – Waldsee, Freiburg, (DE)

27/11/15 – Moods, Zurich (CH)

28/11/15 – Jazzclub, Erfurt, (DE)

29/11/15 – Glashaus, Bayreuth, (DE)

30/11/15 – Schon Schön, Mainz, (DE)

 

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Plaistow present ‘Titan’

Photo: Mehdi Benkler

Photo: Mehdi Benkler

Plaistow set the bar high

Distilling their sound to its very essence, Plaistow have produced, Titan, a big statement from this piano trio led by Johann Bourquenez. With lofty track titles that have the double aspect of Saturn’s moons, and characters in Greek mythology, Plaistow set the bar high, but do they reach it?

They break their own spell

Very young children like to repeatedly bang a drum until you feel you want to punch them. Plaistow use a similar style with chords stabbed over and again, or single piano keys thumped, as in ‘Phoebe’ where Johann’s low notes are emphasised by Cyril Bondi’s simultaneous, single drum hits. This reiteration goes on, enforcing a sort of hypnosis, on both us and them, before – stop. They break their own spell with a sudden spin-around, taking a new direction in rhythm or melody. Plaistow are in control.

Subtle but malevolent bass strings

Often the beats don’t have any slack, or swing, although the deliberate rhythm-shifting and off-beats work well. ‘Kari’ starts with drama: a rattling snake of percussion, subtle but malevolent bass strings, and brushes of piano wire. Johann launches unapologetic, driving notes and with Cyril’s sparse drums, breaks the mood. There are movements in their compositions; each track becomes a surprising journey within itself.

A drone that cements the music

Cyril Bondi has upped his game with a few, assured themes. There are scuttling creatures, percussive bullet rounds and a cymbal-edge metal whine that’s particularly vital, a drone that cements the music to our ears. Vincent Ruiz’s bass is less confident, but within his subtlety there is a distinctive voice emerging, notably in ‘Pan’.

In my interview with Johann last year he explained that Plaistow disguise themselves a jazz trio but are “filled with techno and noise walls”. The tension between these impulses is exciting. Titan is a few tracks too long for me, but Plaistow have avoided an arrogant album by embracing whatever emerged in their improvisations; a genuine range of emotion. Some of these noise walls are woven from elegant melodies; there are romantic glimmers and a veil of Middle Eastern texture.

The piano runs are disturbing and unhinged

As a student I was into Jean Cocteau’s work. He spoke of self-realisation requiring someone to close their eyes, let themselves be taken unawares and follow their dark angel… Bourquenez also follows his light, he taps into his subconscious and gives voice to what he finds. This music has a palpable artistic energy because of that.

In ‘Tethys’ the piano runs are disturbing and unhinged but have the opposite effect in ‘Daphnis’ where the music literally washes wounds with wave after soothing wave. It brings a lump to my throat. ‘Enceladus’ makes my skin crawl, the goosebumps hardening momentarily before the music seems to force open the heart. It feels almost religious, a simple but stunning piece. Much of the album’s impact is physical.

Maybe I’m reading too much into it, or being too personal, but when I first met Johann he looked like he smoked too much and drank too many dark espressos. For this album, he kicked smoking, cycled daily and swam in Lac Leman. Titan is like a discovery of the physical self and of the elation kids feel when they run, climb, roll or bang a drum over and over and over…

New record
Plaistow, ‘Titan’

Plaistow tour dates:
07.11 Jazz Festival, Berlin (DE)
09.11 Jazzdor, Strasbourg (FR)
27.11 Les Murs du Son, La Chaux-de-Fonds (CH)
04.12 Jazz Festival, Jerusalem (IL)
10.12 Paradox, Tilburg (NL)
12.12 State-X Festival, The Hague (NL)
13.12 Jazzdock, Prague (CZ)
22.12 Moods, Zürich (CH)
13.01 2016 Bee-Flat, Bern (CH)

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