Published on 30th July 2022
Schnauser – Altra Seccatura
This is Schnauser’s first release since their highly praised Irritant album, which I reviewed for TPA in 2017. The band first came to my attention when I saw them supporting Knifeworld in a Bristol pub and I was impressed with what I heard, pleased to be able to follow that up by writing about their album.
So here we are with latest album Altra Seccatura, the band’s seventh release. The title translates from Italian as ‘Other Bother’ (or possibly ‘Another Nuisance’?), which is humorously appropriate. Here there is a slight change of focus, moving away from the longer form songs of the last two albums to provide us with more concise track timings, fitting within the ‘Prog/Pop’ format. That said, they have not given up any of their previous sharpness and attention to detail. Indeed I can still hear the Zappa, Bonzos, Canterbury prog and ’60s psychedelic influences throughout, all tied into the prog/pop stylings. In fact, they sum up this album very well as “ten tracks of concise melodic prog/pop, but each cut packs in as much attention to detail as the average UK Visa application”.
In 2018, Holly McIntosh left the band to focus on her own song writing, so the band now continue as a quartet. This has prompted a change toward a guitar free band, with Alan Strawbridge taking up the bass, supported by keyboards, saxophone and drums, giving the songs a fresh new sound. They started to work on new material for this line-up of instruments and had begun recording prior to that covid thingy. The rest of the album was completed slowly over the next couple of years, enabling a lot of care and attention to be given to the recording.
The album consists of ten tracks, mostly written by Alan Strawbridge, using poetry from both Jasper Williams and regular contributor Matthew Davey. Production and mixing was also by Alan with mastering handled by Rob Williams, recording taking place at Dockside Studios, the now defunct Netham Road Studios and ‘our houses’. The interesting artwork was provided by James A. Holland.
The overall feel is of positivity. The music is melodic, catchy and very interesting to listen too. The lyrics, as you would expect from Schnauser, are at times sharp and witty. Throw into the mix the occasional wonky rhythm and change of direction and you have an intriguing listen. The new direction brings the saxophone to the fore, often taking the lead, also providing the rhythm and wonky barping bursts when needed. Add to this keyboard support and a very fine rhythm section and it all comes together very well.
After a fine opening with the first two tracks, the band clearly stamp their influences on how they approach the third, Waltz. It begins with a crazy and very modern sounding waltzing rhythm, so infectious that it almost makes you want to get up and dance. Like Waltz, the next track, Positive, also wears its influence proudly to become another great song, starting with what could be described as an Argentine tango flavour. As usual for Schnauser, they then turn things about and Do the Death is much more in your face, in complete contrast to what went before. It’s possibly my favourite song on the album, although I do find it difficult to chose as each track has something interesting to offer the listener.
The new direction of shorter songs does not take anything away from the music, and in parts enhances it with musical bursts of energy which change and twist direction, sometimes within the same track. Focusing the writing on the new style and line-up has been really successful and overall this is a thoroughly enjoyable album, packed with great arrangements, playing and writing. The result is particularly worthy of investigation.
01. Obligations (3:14)
02. Daddy (5:35)
03. Waltz (3:50)
04. Positive (3:43)
05. Do the Death (4:34)
06. Bistro (4:58)
07. Forever (3:53)
08. Man Friday (4:18)
09. The Crane (3:48)
10. Twisted Solar (6:05)
Total Time – 44:03
Dino Christodoulou – Tenor & Soprano Saxophone
Duncan Gammon – Vocals, GEM Jumbo Organ, Hohner Pianet, Korg MS-20 Synthesiser
Alan Strawbridge – Vocals, Bass, Guitar
Jasper Williams – Vocals, Drums, Percussion
Jon Hare – Trumpets, Accordion
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 1st July 2022