Backlog 2. One of the most beautiful albums of last year, but it so happened to be released after the "best-of-year" lists were made, and that is a shame, and it further went unnoticed by most other music magazines and websites.
And it shouldn't. It should be listened to by everybody. It is a real trio album, with Thomas Heberer on cornet, trumpet and quarter-tone trumpet, Achim Kaufmann on piano and prepared piano, and Ken Filiano on double-bass and prepared double-bass. Two tracks are composed by Heberer, one by Kaufmann and one by Filiano. The other five tracks are trio improvisations. But even then, the composed pieces are of the same open nature as the group improvisations, full of changing dynamics, controlled, contained and yet without limitations or boundaries at the same time.
The sound is like lace, intricate, complex and light to the touch, the sound is like light shining through the leaves of a tree, powerful and slightly dancing.
The music is also hard to pigeon-hole, because of its high level of conceptual abstraction combined with a strong emotional delivery, rhythm and melody are absent, and sonic interactions keep changing like a kaleidoscope. Achim Kaufmann's "Passagg Amnesia" is maybe the most boppish, at least the first part, with percussive piano chords and lyrical phrases, with a steady pulse driving things forward, with Heberer's cornet offering a slower contrast to the proceedings, until the whole thing suddenly stops and the bass leads us hesitatingly into new territory, slowly, with subtle notes on the piano and short trumpet phrases, and this for the second half of the track. The world has changed when listening to it: a beautiful and at the same time alarming shift has taken place.
Filiano's lengthy "Otra Cosa Aparte" starts with minimalist piano chords, with lots of silence and space, and occasionaly trumpet and bowed bass join, then silence reigns again, slightly perturbed by the distant whispers in the trumpet gradually increasing to voiceless pressure sounds on the instrument's mouthpiece, and then, after ten minutes, the bowed bass starts bringing linear structure in the composition, completely changing the style and the dynamics, seemingly chaotic and random until a kind of theme emerges, dark and brooding.
Heberer's compositions are based on his "cookbook" approach, by which limited clues move the improvisation forward, indicating density, free form, pitch with added visual stimuli to drive the sonic imagery. This results in sometimes surprising shifts and angles within the tunes, without undoing the spontaneity of the improvisations. And I think that this is the major feat of the album. It all sounds so natural and deeply felt, despite the intricacies and never-ending changes.
... and on "Qts 4 Ct" some trumpet phrases remind me of Lester Bowie.
The whole album is extremely coherent in its overall sound: elegant, sophisticated, full of inventive interactions, with atmospheres that oscillate between the eery and the jubilating, between lightness and density, between terror and joy, between fragmentation and flux, between straight playing and timbral explorations, and furthermore, the style is beyond categorisation. The eclectic breadth of musical knowledge of the trio is such that they are almost beyond genres, including elements of jazz and classical and romanticism and avant-garde and even modern soundtrack to create their own universe, one that offers ongoing suprises, unpredictable next steps, with sonic explorations leading to emotional depths, taking the listener along for an intense and enriching journey.