Apr 10 2013
The piano trio going by the name of Hypnotic Zone offers up La Justice, les Filles et l’Eternite, an album with a singular personality… rich with eccentric quirks and off-kilter traits. At times, it’s quite expressive of the Austrian jazz scene, often treading the same territory as ECM label artists who hail from the same land. But this is just one side of this album with a dual personality. Many moments of serenity suddenly dissipate into thin air, replaced by the swirling chaos of dissonant notes and relentless percussion. It makes for an unsettling reaction.
But then, with time, the music’s patterns become more evident, the way the music respires and the way it drifts, and how it transitions between those two states of existence. It’s not an album perpetually in flux… it just feels that way at times.
Your album personnel: Villy Paraskevopoulos (piano), Stefan Thaler (bass), and Niki Dolp (drums).
On tracks like “Jupiter” and “Nocturne,” Paraskevopoulos offers up thoughtful expressions on piano, sometimes angelically and sometimes with a growl, and often within the span of the same tune, but he also shows flashes of dexterity on keys, as on the up-tempo “Bo-Ba.”
Bassist Thaler displays a refreshing panache soloing out on “Interlude #3,” but he really shines when he doubles back and outflanks the rhythm on tracks like “Introspectracular,” darkening the shadowy foundation of the songs, and providing an emotional charge that lofts the tunes up to something a little more special.
Dolp approaches the drum work aggressively, and it’s a big reason why the album possesses such a formidable presence. Even when the trio maintains a quiet disposition, Dolp makes sure they never enter a defensive crouch. Each song feels like it could spring to life and at any moment, and that presumed volatility keeps the ear on its toes. On “Semira’s Dream,” drums keep more to the back of the mix, with piano and bass bringing the volume, yet Dolp is the most expressive of the three, punctuating the sentences of his trio mates as the launching point into his own statements. The rollicking album-opener “Introspectracular” reflects this approach, too. Dolp sets the pace of a forced march, and the melody becomes a slap in the face.
The few interludes throughout the album serve as nice transitions between songs. There’s an art to utilizing interludes within an album… the risk is making them superfluous, and rendering the conclusions of songs and the subsequent beginnings as something awkward and lacking cohesion. The key is building just enough personality into the interludes to make them worthy of remark, and using as ingredients the elements of the songs that bookend them. That’s done quite well on this recording. Most notably, in how the ferocity of opening track “Introspectracular” is allowed to slide into the gentle thoughtfulness of “Jupiter.”
The album ends with an extrapolation of Erik Satie’s “Gymnopedies,” titled “Satie’s Little Blues Waltz.” Aside from being spectacularly clever, it’s an ingenious way to end this album. Up to this point, the music was focused on the duality of serenity and dissonance, yet in the album’s final moment of expression, it fuses those two elements into a warm, inviting tune, but one that still has some bite to it.
This may be one of those albums that take a little while to settle in. From my perspective, it’s worth the investment. With subsequent listens, this CD gets stored incrementally closer to my stereo.
Released on the Listen Closely label.
Jazz from the Vienna, Austria scene.
Cover art by Christos Kapatos.