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(58:25, Altrock Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Look for... 12:58 2. In Between 9:32 3. 4 Elements 12:54 4. A Suite 10:03 5. Ural Fragment 13:15 LINEUP: Markus Stauss – sax Ritsche Koch – trumpet Francesco Zago – guitars; loops Christian Weber – bass Remy Strauli – drums
Prolusion. The Swiss band SPALTKLANG has been around since 2001, different incarnations of the band releasing a total of five full-length studio albums so far. In 2013 a brand new version of Spaltklang was ready with "In Between", the most recent of their productions to date, which was released through the Italian Altrock label.
Analysis. Those already familiar with Spaltklang or with the various projects of band leader Markus Stauss will probably know pretty well what to expect in the case of this CD. Challenging, unconventional music is the name of the game here, an album heralding the skills of instrumentalists given room to freely improvise or to improvise with few limitations inside a more or less loosely defined framework. Stauss has, as far as I understand, a rather firm opinion on how improvised music is underrated by both critics and audiences, perhaps the former to a much greater extent than the latter. When describing the music on this CD, jazz is a style that is unavoidable. Bassist Weber provides smooth, compelling double bass motifs aplenty throughout, and the greater majority of them with a sound (and fairly often a style too) that have jazz pretty much written all over it. Stauss saxophone and Koch's trumpet escapades both come with something of an automatic jazz association to them as well, at least when used as they are on this production, although quite a few of the more chaotic sequences here exist outside of any truly defined genre conventions as such. Still, for the greater majority of listeners, escapades of that nature tend to be sorted under free-form jazz, no matter what avid jazz aficionados might want to say about just that. That Strauli's percussion and drum patterns also fairly often come in a form that for most will give an automatic association to jazz further strengthens the impression of this album as one that needs to be sorted somewhere inside the jazz category of albums. Then there's the guitar of Zago, of course, providing subtle solo runs intertwined with sax and trumpet, dark, twisted guitar riffs of a chaotic nature or gentle plucked light toned details. Some careful licks with funky tendencies aside, the use of the guitar on this disc does transport it outside of the common jazz territories. Not only due to the guitars, but the manner in which the guitar is utilized is arguably the most easily heard detail that reveals that "In Between" isn't all about jazz. In between (sic) the improvised sections, whether they are slow, careful and sparse or more intense and chaotic, and in between the passages of a somewhat more structured nature and generally of high intensity at that, and in between the solo runs, sophisticated intertwined instrumental motifs and quirky arrangements, we're also provided with details and parts that sport a more textured delivery. Dark instrumental textures that remind of the cello that actually isn't present, usually with a suitable lighter toned instrument contrasting it, that combines into more of a chamber music oriented construction. Not purebred chamber music or chamber rock, but using details and an approach that at least make associations towards both of these styles viable.
Conclusion. "In Between" is a production that invites to a great number of associations playing on its title, and can truly be said to be in between something on a number of different levels. While I can't see this CD ever reaching out to a broad audience, those with a defined taste for challenging instrumental music with strong improvisational orientation should find plenty here to enjoy. A taste for experimental and free-form jazz will probably be an advantage, and a certain affection for avant-garde progressive rock and chamber music will probably come in handy too. If you truly love all of the above, then chances are good that you'll be able to decode and truly enjoy this hour-long escapade into the realms in between.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: July 20, 2014
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