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Album Review

Wollny - Parisien - Lefebvre - Lillinger: XXXX


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Wollny - Parisien - Lefebvre - Lillinger: XXXX
This unique group effort by a progressive team of virtuoso improvisers doesn't always hit the mark of inspired mastery, but the project certainly expands such possibilities. The album is culled from a four-night stand at Berlin's well-known A-Trane club which produced around eight hours of recorded material. The intriguing, unpredictable package presented here clocks in at around 45 minutes.

The opening track "Somewhere Around Barstow" pops with multiple-sourced seeds which literally set a stage for the chaotic chops soon to follow. Drummer Christian Lillinger sounds off first with snapping tones, ranging from wooden to metallic. Pianist Michael Wollny and saxophonist Emile Parisien meld into common ground, spelled GRUND (Pirouet, 2015), considering certain similarities to passages from Lillinger's album of that name. Wollny's percolating keys are distinctly fresh on his first-listed, solely electronic focus. Tim Lefebvre drives the sonic spectrum hard behind static bass.

There are traces of current bands such as Tonbruket on "Grandmother's Hammer," a bug-like brief preceding "The Haul," an ominous jaunt cast over deep thuds into violin-like tones that most likely came from Parisien's sax.

It is difficult to determine exactly what instrument some sounds might come from. One consistently valuable point of origin is creative cohesion, but there are also times when the music is more "simply stirred" than truly stirring. Still, the formula leads to numerous dynamic phrases. "Doppler Effect" resurrects primal, pre-fame Alice Cooper, and on "Norvenich Lounge" subterranean synths offer hints of Roxy Music's For Your Pleasure (Island, 1973) while Lefebvre cranks up the buzz timbre for the album's most rocking moments.

All but Lillinger have recorded together before, and he may be the wild card in play here. Perhaps the drummer softly applied a mallet or two during "Nostalgia for the Light," but it sounds mostly like Wollny's solo keys wrap up the album. That song is the only one credited to a singular composer. Whether or not it actually came last sequentially during one of the sets, it is a good closing track.

Much of the record segues directly from title to title like sections of a suite. It would be interesting to find out more about the editing process. Where song titles were derived from is another interesting question the album inspires. Production notes indicate that the musicians performed under an agreement that, other than showing up at gigs with their instruments and recording devices, there would be absolutely no songwriting, preparation or planning, in order to achieve the truest improvisational spontaneity possible.

Production work here is excellent, actual unique instrumentation less so. Cover artwork features the chemical formula for psilocybin; a clue to the project's scope and intent? It remains to be heard whether or not this congregation reunites in the future or releases other parts of their shows, but there is enough here to make those possibilities sound worthwhile.

Track Listing

Somewhere Around Barstow; Dick Laurent Is Dead; Too Bright in Here; Grandmother’s Hammer; The Haul; Find the Fish; Doppler FX; Michael vs. Michael; Nörvenich Lounge; Nostalgia for the Light.


Michael Wollny: piano; Emile Parisien: saxophone, soprano; Tim Lefebvre: bass; Christian Lillinger: drums.

Album information

Title: XXXX | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: ACT Music

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