AEON (2017) | CD, Double LP
"A haunting soundtrack that’s brimming with evocative cadences and meditative spaces, Aeon presents a sonic pool of calm from within which we can reflect upon and make sense of the turbulent world around us." From the liner notes by Sid Smith (read complete liner notes below)
"You'll hear lots of intricate musical conversations going on in this very beautiful, spacious, minimalist groove album." Anil Prasad, Independent Music Journalist, Innerviews
Liner Notes by Sid Smith:
Following their acclaimed 2015 album, Molecules, Switzerland-based outfit, Akku Quintet have released their third record, Aeon. Intense, brooding and powerful, it contains a sequence of darkly beautiful compositions by Akku Quintet founder, drummer Manuel Pasquinelli.
Best-known for his work in Swiss post-rock minimalist outfit, SONAR, Pasquinelli’s writing contains an almost cinematic dimension that encompasses bittersweet moods and moments of unfolding drama.
Recorded in three days the compositions, begun at the piano or drum kit, were expanded and evolved by the group in an organic way. “We had a tour with six concerts just before the studio session, so we were very well attuned to the music. It was important for us to bring some of the energy and playfulness of a live gig to the album. Going in the studio we knew the songs very well but we were still trying out new things and sounds because the songs were still quite fresh for us. Often, the first take of a song turned out to be the best one,” says Pasquinelli.
Formed in 2010, the line-up of Pasquinelli, Michael Gilsenan (Tenor saxophone), Markus Ischer (Guitar), Maja Nydegger (Piano, Keyboards) and Andi Schnellmann (Bass) avoids any obvious soloing. Instead they move through their tunes in a highly disciplined, tight formation which fans of SONAR and the work of zen-funk pioneer, Zurich-based pianist, Nik Bärtsch, will recongise and respect.
Between the mesmeric ostinato, subtly shifting grooves, resonant overtones, tingling harmonics and languorous, yearning melodies, Akku Quintet hover somewhere between smouldering, jazz-infused intimacy, expansive post-rock vistas and an insistent minimalist intensity.
Though comprised of five distinct tracks there’s often a sense that Aeon is a flowing suite of music, a feeling that’s reinforced by a delicately unfurling piano motif that appears at the start and finish of the album.
Throughout the record there’s a poetic quality to Maja Nydegger’s keyboards, her notes arriving like a sprinkling of snowflakes; pristine and perfect in their internal geometry. With Markus Ischer adding ice-edged crystalline lines guitar lines that dovetail into the burnished flow of Michael Gilsenan’s sax, beneath the unwinding, discursive themes, Schnellmann and Pasquinelli’s bass and drums dig deep into the funkish sub-strata upon which much of the band’s sound is developed.
During the 21-minute Waves, Thierry Lüthy’s sax shimmers in and out of focus as Markus Ischer twang bar notes echo and bend in the piece’s momentum. It’s an extended essay in establishing tension and then revelling in the release as the piece ripples outwards towards a spacious and effusive dialogue between all five players.
The shared empathy and sense of purpose displayed by the group is one of their key strengths. Pasquinelli admits Waves presented the greatest challenge during the recording of Aeon. “Because of its length and open form, and since there's not much material to play with, it's very important to keep the tautness and flow from start till end. In concert it’s much easier to create a mood in front of an audience with a piece like this. In the studio we realised that we just need enough patience to make it work As a result I'm very happy with the take we have on the album.”
As with their debut release, Stages Of Sleep (2013) and Molecules (2015), the group connect and lock together yet remain constantly in motion, maintaining a balletic poise and grace that skilfully builds and adds line upon line of long, sonorous notes. Though each one on its own might be gossamer-thin, when combined, they create something strong and enduring, something substantial and memorable.
Regardless of all the compositional concepts which underpin Pasquinelli’s music and the work of the band, perhaps the most important thing is that the songs each tell their own stories and conjure their own pictures moods in which the listener can immerse themselves without the need to analyze or overthink what’s going on.
For Pasquinelli the album title is the key. "The word ‘Aeon’ represents a very long period of time, almost immeasurable. I think this fits well to the spirit of the record; timeless, but still transient.”
A haunting soundtrack that’s brimming with evocative cadences and meditative spaces, Aeon presents a sonic pool of calm from within which we can reflect upon and make sense of the turbulent world around us.
Sid Smith, Mai 2017
MOLECULES (2015) | CD, LP
"Ein Werk von unaufdringlicher Schönheit, das auch Jazz-Skeptikern gefallen könnte"
Ane Hebeisen, der Bund
"This just flows and grooves from start to finish"
Steve Feigenbaum, Cuneiform Records
Album Review by Roger Trenwith (the Progressive Aspect):
"Akku Quintet are a Swiss band based in Berne, from where they dispense a minimalistic jazz groove to great effect. Dreamy piano sequences snuggle up with soft sax, juxtaposed with sci-fi guitar effects as the invisible bonds joining elemental particles are gently agitated on opener Phase Transitions. Nik Bartsch’s Ronin come to mind, but this groove is somehow less rarefied, warmer. The piano melody theme resurfaces, joined with a sonorous bass, the transition made to another lounge and another bar, meditating on life as it rushes by on the other side of the rain-speckled window.
Akku Quintet play post-new age jazz for the urban sophisticate, but this does not have to be the sole preserve of a few hipsters, as it is warm and open to all. This is the group’s second album and the band are led by drummer Manuel Pasquinelli who composed all the pieces here.
This music will not be rushed, but in the shorter composition Freeze a harder Akku Quintet is revealed, with brittle fuzzy guitar set against dissonant electric piano chords. This track is the exception to the liquid and languid feel of the rest of the album, a place where the music becomes spaciously expansive, but always contains an undercurrent of melancholic modernity.
All the musicians contribute equally, combining in duos or more, or as a complete ensemble. The top melody is taken at a leisurely pace by either the piano or the saxophone, underpinned by Andi Schnellmann’s luxurious bass playing. Leader Manuel Pasquinelli’s rhythms are usually understated, leaving the rest of the band to take the spotlight. Fluid features a rare sequence with the sax and Markus Ischer’s guitar playing a melodic line in tandem, rare because Markus’ interjections are for the most part in spiky contrast to the mellifluous tones elsewhere. This works a treat throughout the album, and further into Fluid he lets loose a joyously expressive wah wah guitar solo to neatly illustrate the point.
Pieces are constructed from repetition, rhythmically and melodically, to create dreamy soundscapes, sometimes rustled by the aforementioned guitar interjections, sometimes not. There is a subtle purpose at work here, and the album feels like a complete composition, an entity of itself. Concluding track Schneemann drifts in on a simple and later embellished piano figure, occasional washes of sound leaving the listener floating in a warm sonic bath. Quite the mysterious journey, the piece opens out by increment as the drum rhythm enters and becomes quietly insistent, Markus’ effects-driven guitar again providing an added layer of suspense. Joined by reverberating Hammond and Syd-like guitar squiggles, the tune morphs into a psychedelic trip.
A great way to conclude an album that while it takes some time to anchor itself in your psyche, once hooked in there it reveals more on every listen. Highly recommended."
STAGES OF SLEEP (2013) | CD
On this album, every song corresponds to a specific stage of the human sleep-cycle.
Listening to a LULLABY (01) you are slowly FALLING ASLEEP (02) during LIGHT SLEEP 1 (03) your muscles relax the conscious perception of your surroundings vanishes transiting from
LIGHT SLEEP 2 (04) to DEEP SLEEP 1 (05) your pulse slows down the body temperature sinks PASSING INTO DEEP SLEEP 2 (06) your breathing and pulse rate reach their minimum in
DEEP SLEEP 2 (07) while your muscles are relaxed your heartbeat rises during REM SLEEP (08) rapid eye movement occurs the brain becomes more active dreams are most vivid visual and emotional you will be WAKING UP (09) eventually drifting from sleep back into wakefulness.
"Just a real enjoyable Album"
„Als Hörer taucht man sofort ein in den hypnotischen Fluss der Musik. Das Spiel zwischen den verschiedenen Bandmitgliedern funktioniert hervorragend.“ Berner Kulturagenda