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.
01. Phase Transitions (15:19)
02. Freeze (3:36)
03. Fluid (10:41)
04. Schneemann (9:28)
Total Time – 39:05
Thierry Lüthy – Saxophone
Markus Ischer – Guitar
Andi Schnellmann – Bass
Maja Nydegger – Piano, Keys, Hammond
Manuel Pasquinelli – Drums
Record Label: Morpheus Records
Country of Origin: Switzerland
Date of Release: 23rd January 2015