Swiss Vibes live à Paris: Pommelhorse

Pommelhorse 3Avec son nom loufoque (PommelHORSE signifie le cheval d’arçon en allemand et s’écrit en minuscule et en majuscule), PommelHORSE fait partie de ces groupes qui empêchent de tourner en rond. Etiqueté jazz, sélectionné à la grande messe de Jazz Ahead l’an dernier, on se demande souvent à l’écoute de sa musique ce qu’il reste de jazz dans cette affaire. Si l’orchestration – basse. batterie, synthétiseurs, clarinette et sax – est relativement orthodoxe, chacun des musiciens semble pris dans la tempête d’un vent libertaire. Musicophages, ils semblent littéralement avoir « bouffé » du rock, du heavy metal, de la dance music de la musique classique et, accessoirement, du jazz.

« Wintermadness », paru en 2014, deux ans après un premier album éponyme, a gagné en intensité et en force. Il nous entraîne dans une drôle de transe hypnotique dans laquelle on s’imagine entrain de « chasser le lapin blanc », d’ouvrir une boîte de Pandore ou de marcher sur un trottoir mouvant. Bref autant d’activités qu’on ne fait pas tous les jours, mais que ces cinq musiciens bernois semblent avoir le don d’évoquer. Leur sensibilité musicale leur permet d’être à fleur de peau des sensations et des émotions les plus subtiles. Avec PommelHORSE, n’hésitez plus et embarquez dans un grand huit musical!

En concert au Centre culturel suisse de Paris, le 4 juin 2015 (avec Orioxy)

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)

Orioxy “Lost Children”

OrioxyEvocative storytelling perfectly suits this quartet
Orioxy’s third album resonates most when it re-imagines the template of simple folk music. Evocative storytelling perfectly suits this quartet of Manu Hagmann on double bass, Roland Merlinc on drums, harpist Julie Campiche and Yael Miller’s voice which at best is pure and unadorned, yet rich with the flavour of her mother tongue, Hebrew.

These stories have a modern accent though. Princeless is Yael’s re-telling of the Cinderella tale, it’s riven with longing and bereft of the happy ending. Soft electronic cries, a melancholic double bass and bare drum taps use a delicacy that binds the whole piece together. Yael Miller’s voice flips between innocence and sensuous knowing throughout, calling on her natural ability for drama. Song of Love is wonderfully accompanied by a percussive typewriter as if the singer is dictating her letter. Some type of squeeze box murmurs sadly and drops of electronica fold into a sympathetic bass solo, all the while the fountain-like harp sparkling light and fresh.

Julie CampicheCampiche’s timing seems to fly directly from her heart
The harp is really the heroine of this album with Julie Campiche’s myriad of subtle colours and styles perfectly placed again and again. Her solo in Isha is spine-tingling. This track is ranging and borderless, a landscape of yearning vocals and grooving rhythms helped by tape rewinds and effects. At first the harp captivates with Middle Eastern vibes amid deep double bass twangs that fall into dark scrapes, before the harp emerges in a solo full of soul and expression. Campiche’s timing seems to fly directly from her heart.

I don’t mind Yael’s rapping or the use of the Sami Darg Team (rappers from Gaza) on Bachour Meshouamam (A Bored Boy) but it does break the spell of the delicate web of lovelorn melodies. As an album, Lost Children does face the danger of its gentle downtempo mood coming to a lethargic halt so I welcome a bit more spit and verve. However, this is best done with their own instruments such as in Old World. Using a bow on the double bass and suitable electronics they bring a free rock track together without a whiff of lead guitar.

There could be a further clarity of the unique Orioxy sound
‘Music doesn’t have a style,’ Yael sings and it’s true this album does not fit into a neat genre. But music does need to have a clear identity, and although this is a decent third album I feel there could be a further clarity of the unique Orioxy sound gained through exploring further musical depth and developing musicianship and songwriting skills.

Interestingly, Orioxy do a captivating interpretation of Paul McCartney’s Blackbird. But in a way that cover serves to show what a truly stunning song can do. It’s the track that has stayed in my head. Orioxy have a good line up of gigs, often a chance for a band to get to know itself on a deeper level. Grab a chance to hear them play as I’m sure there will be some wonderful moments of magic.

Orioxy website and tour dates

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