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Saturday, April 1, 2023

Hans Koch, Frantz Loriot, Jonas Kocher – Stranger Becoming (Neither/Nor Records, 2022)

By Nick Ostrum

Hans Koch (reeds with the trio of Fredy Studer with Martin Schülz, the Barry Guy New Orchestra, the Cecil Taylor European Ensemble, etc.) and Frantz Loriot (violinist in Der Verboten) are relatively known entities in improvised music today. Jonas Kocher is less so, though his work on last year’s feted Baldrian Quartet release likely brought him some deserved attention. A free improv accordionist is already a rare enough thing, but even rarer is one who so conscientiously avoids idiomatic temptations.

Stranger Becoming is the first release of the Koch-Loriot-Kocher trio. The music is minimalist, tonal and gauzy. Melodies sometimes fight to break out of the wispy haze as on the surprisingly melancholic title and final track, Stranger Becoming. They, however, emerge fragmented and transient, as the trio volleys these tuneful bits back and forth. Much of the time, the instrumentation is clear. Often enough, however, it is difficult to determine precisely which musician is creating which sound, and that is very much to the credit of the sympathetic responsivity of the group. This point also speaks to the skillful ways that Koch, Loriot and Kocher harness their sound. Long tones intertwine and refract, sometimes eliciting shimmery, almost cinematic (hat tip to William Rossi) crescendos. This is especially clear in songs such as A Fleeting Purchase and All Told. Pieces such as Relinquished Rifles and The Weight of Magic (the opener) take the interplay in a different direction, using shorter, punctuated swipes and pointillist clucks, coupled with the longer draws, moving further from reductionist new music toward free improv, albeit sans the jazz implications and sound blasts. This is alternately a colder and warmer approach to the style.

I am not sure whether or how much of this is composed. It certainly sounds deliberate, in the sense that the group is working toward a singular aesthetic. A truly engaging release, and one that reveals new layers with each listen.

Stranger Becoming is available as CD or download from Bandcamp: