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Saturday, April 2, 2016

Lucien Dubuis / Barry Guy / Alfred Vogel - Heavy Metal Rabbit (Boomslang Records, 2016) ****

By Eyal Hareuveni

Prolific Austrian drummer Alfred Vogel is still criminally underrated outside of his home country. He is based in the tourist Alpine town Bezau in western Austria, far from Vienna, but still collaborates with many musicians who refuse to be locked in any strict genre or style, whether it be funk, rock, jazz or free improvisation. His discography offers collaborations with American trumpeter Peter Evans (Il Piccolo Incidente, 2014), drummer Kevin Shea (the BIG BÄNG!!!, 2012), and Finnish guitarist Kalle Kalima (Vogelperspektive 1, 2011), all on Boomslang.

Heavy Metal Rabbit is Vogel trio with Swiss bass clarinet player Lucien Dubuis, with whom he already recorded Frei Wild (Boomslang, 2014), and British double bass master Barry Guy, also based in Switzerland. The trio was formed as working group, touring Europe this winter, celebrating the release of its debut album. Why rabbit? Guy insisted that he spotted a Metal Rabbit hopping across from him on the way to the recording studio. Rabbits are obviously are fast, rapidly changing their directions, like these musicians. And rabbits are “steered by a navigation system that is musically fed by three individualistic musicians who, according to themselves, have ‘finally’ found each other”. Now the addition of the word Heavy seemed only logical, though all three insist that no rodent was harmed during the recording session, just that the sight of the mysterious metal rabbit charged the trio with enough tons of energy for “a 100 meter sprint across a field of carrots”.

The close affinity between these resourceful improvisers is clear from the first second. The eight pieces rely loosely on structured themes but all three enjoy deconstructing the skeletally composed veins, and play, game-like, with these themes. This kind of playful, immediate, and leaderless interplay is delivered with sharp sense of humor, commanding elegance, and creative sense of sculpting shifting pulses. “Wahu Guru” and “Human Form” stress the strong and tight rhythmic of the trio, full of nuances. On other pieces as “Urug Uhaw” and “Dorimu” the three sound as subverting any attempt to form a common structure or a theme, as if all focus on parallel tracks, briefly touching each other ideas, but underneath this chaotic-sounding interplay eventually a driving rhythm is found and all three lock on it. “Breath”, “Ibog Nus Irak Hgnis” and “Palo” highlights the poetic language of these highly creative musicians, carefully building and dissolving a suggestive-cinematic tension, concluded in short moving codas.