Oct 1 2013
Occupying similar territory to that of fellow Swedes Klabbes Bank, and to a lesser extent, some of the chamber-groove movement, a la Nik Bartsch’s Ronin, the AKKU Quintet excels in presenting strong melodies that might float away if not held tight, tempos that turn on a dime and throw some spare change in to boot, and an attitude that feels free to walk amongst the various genres whenever it suits them best… belonging to all and to none, both.
Basing their album Stages of Sleep around the progression of a single night’s rest, the band mimics the state of body and mind through sonic expression, creating music that is ephemeral as dream and just as lively.
Your album personnel: Thierry Luthy (sax), Markus Ischer (guitar), Maja Nydegger (piano, Rhodes), Jeremias Keller (bass), and Manuel Pasquinelli (drums, glockenspiel).
Opening tracks “Lullaby” and “Falling Asleep” greatly convey that lightness of being that suffuses the body as it drifts off, eyes getting heavy. Melodies bright and comforting and sussurant. Luthy’s sax is a baby’s sigh, Pasquinelli’s percussion is the rattle of leaves in the trees, and everything sounds like moonlight.
“Light Sleep 1 & 2” riff on the changes in perception, as reality drops away, enveloped by a state of dream… an active mind contrasts with a still body, and dreams bring new contexts, different forms of engagement with ever-changing stimuli. Cadences switch up in the blink of an eye like changes of scenery in a dream. Melodies congeal then dissipate without warning. Luthy’s saxophone grows monstrous, then peaceful as a church mouse. Ischer’s guitar shifts from a woozy metronome to a sudden flash flood burst.
“Deep Sleep 1” features Nydegger’s warped notes and effects, as dreams become more concrete, the body is more entrenched in its state of repose, and the awareness registers everything as atypically strange… whether the tone is nightmarish or positively chipper. Keller’s bass is the thundering footsteps coming from around the corner on “Passing Into Deep Sleep 2” or, perhaps, representing a simple change in circadian rhythms. Luthy’s sax is a dove in flight, which leads into the twittering dynamo of “Deep Sleep 2,” a song that is at times both twitchy and a mind at ease. It gradually builds up to a frenzy, before dropping back off and into a calmer frame of mind.
The album ends with “REM Sleep” and “Waking Up.” The former has a staggered groove that seems caught between wanting to bop and wanting to rock out… and finding a satisfying way to do neither and both, in its way. The latter song begins with Pasquinelli sending out competing tides of percussion, but then slowly transforms into the melody from the opening acts… in the end, bringing things to a close in the place that they first began.
Just a real enjoyable album. This little discovery was my Find of the Week back in August, and I still find myself returning to it quite often.
Released on the Morpheus Records label.
Jazz from the Bern, Switzerland scene.