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Punkt. Vrt. Plastik: Zurich Concert

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Punkt. Vrt. Plastik: Zurich Concert
Over the course of the five years since its inception, Punkt. Vrt. Plastik, the trio of Slovenian pianist Kaja Draksler, Swedish bassist Petter Eldh and German drummer Christian Lillinger, has become one of the premier bands on the European circuit. Definitive proof arrives in the shape of Zurich Concert, the threesome's third album, recorded at the 2021 unerhört!-Festival in the titular Swiss city. Although all but one of the selections appear on the outfit's first two releases, they present differently here, their reimaginings injected with new life, recontextualized in mini-suites imbued with volatility, unpredictability and skew-whiff brilliance.

Eldh and Lillinger combine in an unrivalled rhythmic axis. The bass/drum thicket which launches the opening "Nuremberg Amok" seems to channel post-J Dilla hip hop dislocations and suspensions in an intricate and intoxicating mesh, which establishes the tone for the rest of the set. Keeping up with the drummer's timbral stutter and nervy precision poses a challenge for any partner, but it is a test Eldh passes with flying colors. His resonant spare figures, staggered phrasing and muscular counterpoint create a powerful platform, one on full display here, as well as with his own Koma Saxo and with another commanding drummer, Gard Nilssen, in Acoustic Unity.

While pianist Draksler inhabits environments as varied as her own Octet, which furnishes diverse settings for poetry texts, as well as an intimate duet with trumpeter Susana Santos Silva, and the co-operative Hearth with Silva and saxophone mavens Mette Rasmussen and Ada Rave, in this company she leans towards the percussive, adding yet another interlocking layer to the near telepathic gear shifts of her colleagues. She often pushes a minimalist ethos, hitting on reiterated snags as if trying to break out of the cage of beats, but tempers it with a personal imprint derived from fragmented melodies, delicate dissonances and odd voicings, enhanced by sparing use of a midi quarter tone keyboard.

Author credits for the 13 numbers are drawn from across the band, but their drum tight execution demands that they be viewed through a collective lens, an imperative amplified by how they slot seamlessly one into another, breaking into three blocks during the course of performance. Such realizations also tend to blur the distinction between solo and ensemble. This is group music in the fullest sense. In their interweavings, the warp merits as much attention as the weft, the whole united in a dizzying whirl. There's a playful air of adventure and metamorphosis too, affirmed by the vocal shouts and laughter which punctuates the relentless flow.

Eldh's ballad "Morgon Morfin" is notable for the contrast it provides with the rest of the caffeinated program, relayed by Draksler over sliding offkilter cadences, before ultimately moving through a tumbling passage of vaguely carnivalesque piano into the slowly accelerating repetitions of "Vrvica II." Other transitions are similarly accomplished, witness Lillinger's glitchy solo which introduces "Veins" or the way in which Eldh's wiry pizzicato strides out front of the trio as "Amnion" morphs into "Body Decline-Natt Raum." Draksler's handling of the second part here also stands out, as she begins to omit the odd notes here and there from the theme, to gradually deconstruct the bombastic march.

But really there is just so much going on here that it all deserves close listening. Again and again.

Track Listing

Nuremberg Amok; Axon; Trboje; Vrvica I; Amnion; Body Decline - Natt Raum; Morgon Morfin; Vrvica II; Membran; Traces Of Veins; Veins; Zug; Azan.

Personnel

Album information

Title: Zurich Concert | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Intakt Records


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