It can't do any harm as an aspiring musician if a close relation runs a record company. But let's be clear that the young Swiss threesome Trio Heinz Herbert's appearance on the esteemed Intakt imprint is based entirely on merit, without a whiff of nepotism on the air. Right that's got that out of the way. In fact The Willisau Concert constitutes the band's fourth album (sort of, as they shared a split CD, before issuing two others solely under their own name on small local labels). As the title indicates, it documents their performance at the 2016 Willisau Festival, and consists of six collectively birthed explorations.
At the core of the unit are the brothers Landolt, Ramon on keyboards and Dominic on guitar (who share the surname with Intakt founder Patrik). But crucial to their approach is Mario Hänni on drums who astutely treads the sometimes fraught borderline between elastic grooves and improv textures, albeit with rocky attitude. All three utilize effects, with Ramon Landolt's synthesizer providing some of the most original aspects of their sound, as he imbues the circuitry with real personality and life. Together they take the seat-of-the-pants outlook of jazz to a realm beyond genre which touches variously on metal, minimalism, noise and indie pop.
"Granulare Liebe / LEI" with its indeterminate metallic sounds bubbling out of a mix of clattering rattles and guitar tweakings builds into a fusillade of percussive pulsation, before stilling to reveal waves of electronic washes, then a final anthemic pounding. Its energy and rhythm is what separates it from much ambient music. In fact the gradually evolving patterns suggest nothing so much as a plugged in, souped up version of The Necks.
The stop start cadences of "Fragment Z / Brugguda" lead into the most jazzy offering on the disc with the spare piano lines of "Hyper Down" underpinned by a slightly ominous throb, while Dominic Landolt's guitar driven thumping alternates with more pointillist passages on "Heinz Steps."
It's on "Planet Cita K," with its echoes of 70s krautrock pioneers Tangerine Dream and Can, that the outfit comes nearest to the space jazz tag that's been used to describe them. Indeed the ethereal voice samples before the incrementally swelling crescendo might even be Sun Ra. Needless to say the subsequent ovation is well deserved, and should be the first of many for a group following a bright star.
Granulare Liebe / LEI; Fragment Z / Brugguda; Hyper Down; Heinz Steps; Planet Cita K; Gumpi Ball.
Dominic Landolt: guitar, effects; Ramon Landolt: synth, samples, piano; Mario Hänni: drums, effects
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