Markus Reuter is perhaps best known as one third of Stick Men, whose sprawling and mighty live document, PANAMERICA was reviewed in this very boutique not long ago. However, there is much more to this musical polymath’s muse than the mere wielding of the Stick. Over the years, Reuter has been a member of Centrozoon, and The Crimson ProjeKct, amongst others, written a modernist classical symphony – the quite captivating Todmorden 513 – and last year he released a string quartet recording entitled Heartland, which I have yet to hear. Oh, during all that he has mastered the Chapman Stick and the Warr Guitar, as well as designing his own range of U8 and U10 Touch guitars, and found time to collaborate with all kinds of players in many different fields of music, as well as acting as producer on several albums. Phew!
Here he teams up with Italian bass maestro Fabio Trentini, and the much in demand drummer Asaf Sirkis, the end result being a scorching power trio, who get straight down to business on the opening title track, The Truce. Guided by Fabio’s lazily funky bass riff, the piece builds and builds in intensity, and features some truly astonishing fretwork from our self-effacing hero. The twelve minutes of this opening salvo will leave you breathless, and reaching for the ciggies, so it’s only appropriate that the second piece is a short sigh of satisfaction entitled Swoonage, still burning in the afterglow.
Some of the sounds Markus gets out of his instrument are little short of guitar science fiction, and I would love to see this live. Over Fabio’s repeated fretless bass line, a tortured conversation is being wrought out of Markus’s guitar on Bogeyman that is simultaneously beautiful and excruciating, and yet somehow eminently listenable. Be Still My Brazen Heart initially seems to be the respite that we are by now quite definitely needing, halfway into the album. An alien calm pervades, yet I am waiting to be thrown into a swirling chasm of Markus’s choosing, it could happen at any moment, as the guitar lines slowly, slowly writhe and twitch with mounting intent, the languid bass line now counterpointed by an equally rising rhythmic clatter from Asaf. But lo! For it appears that the rising tension has dissipated, a cosmic blues of gigantic proportions has been played out before us, the track quickly fading.
This is intelligent music, and it will rearrange your synapses in a good way. It is also FUN, and will have any lover of good music grinning like a loon. This being the 100th release on the venerable MoonJune Records, the power trio format here is fitting, as the label has a fine history of giving air to numerous innovative bands in that format over the years. Remarkably, it was recorded live, and one wonders how much was scripted and rehearsed beforehand. With players of this calibre, improvisation comes naturally, and it is fairly certain that a good proportion of this record was plucked from the air so to speak.
Fabio’s hypnotic and rubbery fretless bass work puts me in mind of the late, great Mick Karn, especially on the triumphal closing number, Gossamer Things. Here, the band have reached an effortless Nirvana-state, and are completely in the zone. While the twelve-minute epic that opens the album is frantic and breathless, here the training has paid off, everything is considered, needed, and whole, making for a quite marvellous sonic experience.
There are no stars on this record, and although the listener’s focus will mostly shift between Markus’s burning fretwork and Fabio’s liquid bass lines, one is also intermittently drawn to Asaf’s rhythmic subtleties, as well as his power. The trio working together as a unit is perhaps nowhere better expressed than on the incongruously named Let Me Touch Your Batman. It’s ok, you can borrow him for a week, I’m going off hiking with Truce as the soundtrack while I traverse the foothills of Pavonis Mons.
01. The Truce (11:56)
02. Swoonage (3:25)
03. Bogeyman (7:28)
04. Be Still My Brazen Heart (8:46)
05. Power Series (9:03)
06. Let Me Touch Your Batman (9:52)
07. Gossamer Things (11:50)
Total Time – 62:00
Markus Reuter – Touch Guitars® AU8, Live Looping
Fabio Trentini – Wal Fretless Bass, Bass Synthesizer
Asaf Sirkis – Acoustic Drums
Record Label: MoonJune Records
Date of Release: 17th January 2020