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Friday, April 15, 2022

Oùat - Elastic Bricks (Umlaut, 2022) ****½

By Gregg Miller

A whisky bar piano trio, joyfully performed, loose, with an edge of drunken madness. You can practically hear them slurring their words. Simon Sieger (piano), Joel Grip (bass), and Michael Griener (drums) really have it going on. Sieger is clearly the musical leader, though most tunes here are composed by Grip. Griener is particularly impressive: Time-keeping without needing to always pummel the beat, creative fills, a happy assortment of jangly, resonant colorings, wonderful musicianship. This is their debut recording, but they have that perfect looseness that comes only from close familiarity. Their sound aesthetic feels like a cross between Kurt Weill, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, and a French mime.

The opener, “Shall We,” is a winner. Lazy sounding, everything behind the beat. Relaxed to the point of almost forgetting to play, and then running to catch-up. An alcoholic haze. Some strategic stop-starts. The sound seems much bigger than a piano, bass, drums trio, maybe because the drums (here, brushes) are so pleasingly present. The second tune carries that same vibe: music in disarray. Bacchus come hither. The third tune is a bit of a wake-up call. Still the mess aesthetic, but the mood turns insistent with its samba-esque cadence. Next is a drum feature, the toms driving it forward. The edge of madness aesthetic continues on the apparently existentialist “Height of Nothingness.” The bass intro. and the seat-of-your pants piano makes this arguably the best tune here, but they’re all great. The song cycles round and round going nowhere, but fast and seemingly in 3/4 time, except sometimes the piano is clearly playing a different time than the bass and drums, and they all meet up somewhere, somehow down the road. Track 6, “Tibia of the Mole,” is a hallucinogen. Arco bass; a touch of Kurt Weill. the drumming varied, old timey belly-up-to-the-bar until the double-time section and dreamy falling cascades of piano notes morphs into a full onslaught dance-band lunacy all-out improv. into a tasteful close. Track 7, “Weihnachten,” seems a drunk version of a more technical use of lateness, bringing to my mind pianist Jacob Sacks and bassist Eivind Opsvick’s Two Miles a Day (Loyal Label, 2007) with Paul Motion on drums, Mat Maneri on viola.

These tunes are all clearly composed, yet each of the three artists plays with such controlled abandon that they are together utterly of one mind—that devilish mind being like a disheveled kitchen after an all-night drink-fest. Fact is, every one of these songs is enjoyable. I’ll be keeping this one in rotation.


Sherm Clow said...

Very cool! I like the variability between compositions. Wild but controlled playing. Much fun and creativity. I'm not always a big fan of trio groups, but so much is happening in this release that I've embraced it completely.