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Woodlander: Calvins Toboggan

Geno Thackara By

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If the title Calvins Toboggan puts any images of a certain classic comic strip into your head, you're probably already thinking of something lighthearted, fun and adventurous. The cover should let you know, though, that this Swiss trio has its own quirky and post-modernist idea of what's fun. There's a definite sense of adventure, even a touch of whimsy in spots, of a kind that's easygoing rather than wild. The trio certainly isn't afraid of a little abstraction, but almost always avoids making it grating or inaccessible.

Luzius Schuler weaves the album's compositions with simple motifs and plenty of space for each member to explore. His piano and Mats Spillman's trumpet get their share of melody, though they're just as willing to hold in a pattern and allow Jonas Ruther's drumming to be the improvising 'solo' voice in front; the energy almost becomes more rock than jazz in his hardest-hitting moment "Flash da Trash." The song structures here always remain open to such interesting twists throughout. The semi-country lope of "Avancement" gradually falls apart into trumpet wails and clattering noise, while the initially pretty "Nach am Schlaf" perversely gets more energetically minor until a crescendo gradually builds—at which point it suddenly fades out into the air.

Spillman sticks to the slow and sparse, occasionally reminiscent of Nils Petter Molvaer in letting simple expressive notes speak for themselves, though eschewing any electronic processing. His lines live simply in the moment without any need to fill up the space, let alone add effects, loops or any such trickery. His and Schuler's weaving melodies add most pleasant airs to the bright loping jams of "Toboggan" and "Hieronymous," or the even more rhythmically lively (and aptly titled) "Fahrradfahren" (meaning "Cycling").

Woodlander shows an impressive willingness to be refined and unorthodox on this debut as a group, and one gets the sense that it's an ingrained attitude beyond the usual newness of a fresh outfit at work. They seem assuredly ready to find their own skewed path through the figurative woods, and we can all hope this spirit of exploration will only produce more fascinating results to come.

Track Listing: Auren; Toboggan ; Advancement; Hieronymus; Nach am Schlaf; Bart; Fahrradfahren; Flash Da Trash; Linie; Harmoniumlied; Auren Reprise.

Personnel: Luzius Schuler: piano; Mats Spillmann: trumpet; Jonas Ruther: drums.

Title: Calvins Toboggan | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: QFTF

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