Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Der Verboten - Der Verboten (Wide Ear Records, 2021) ****½

 By Stef Gijssels

When reviewing "Der Verboten"'s equally self-titled debut album, I wrote "There can only be one track on this album, because there is no need for another approach. Now, four years later, they are back with the evidence to challenge my statement. The French/Swiss quartet is still the same, with Frantz Loriot on viola, Antoine Chessex on sax, Cédric Piromalli on piano, and Christan Wolfarth on percussion. 

The art work of the album reflects the music well. It is dark, ominous, uncompromising, relentless and resolutely single-minded. The first track, "Litanie", is a mesmerising, seventeen-minute long dense fast-moving stream of vibrations around a single tonal center. As a listener, it feels like you're dragged into a maelstrom of sound, or pushed forward by a powerful sirocco from which there is no escape except to move with the flow. Despite the single sonic center, the viola, sax and piano oscillate in varying repetitive phrases and timbres, propulsed forward by Wolfarth's relentless drumming. The music is so powerful, coherent and dense that the individual instruments disappear within the overall wall of sound. 

The second track, "Ether", has a lighter texture, but the interaction is no less intense, with the various instruments approaching each other in their quest to converge, to create homogeneity of sound, and maybe even of being, which seems to be achieved halfway the track, when a deep rumbling is the only sound to exist. The texture may be lighter, yet the mood is as dark and plaintive as on the first track, and even if the structure and narrative are more varied, it leaves the listener perplex till the end. 

The quartet's instruments could give the wrong impression that this is a jazz quartet, but the music is not, and should rather be categorised as modern electroacoustic music or sound art. You love it or you hate it. That's what we like: musicians taking risks, creating completely new sonic environments that may only resonate with a limited number of listeners, but that are totally fascinating and riveting. It will not leave you indifferent. 

We love it.

The album is also available in LP format. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

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