There is music that makes everything familiar, because it simply varies what you already know. Then you feel good, just because you are not challenged by anything unfamiliar, any new ideas. There is nothing to hear that feels new and alien, and sometimes you dose off, comfortable – even completely satisfied. Then there is music that blasts everything asunder. MALSTROM belongs to this second category – and explodes everything out of restrictive pigeonholes. For almost ten years, the trio has cultivated a cheerful deconstructive attitude to various musical traditions, mainly to experimental jazz. The crazy enthusiasm and energy, the eerie density of signals streaming out to the audience from the speakers frees up everything that is dried-up in jazz (even the experimental). MALSTROM has now created four albums of avant-garde music that has an uncompromisingly direct impact – without a theoretical superstructure or meta level – and the result is immensely entertaining. Starting with tremendous, playful precision, both in the composed as well as in the improvised passages, they open up new jazz possibilities. Ten pieces were recorded for the new album Klaus-Dieter. These constantly change direction, parts are isolated and disassembled, then abruptly brought together to dash forward. Improvisation and composition interweave. It would be all too easy to describe this diverse mixture as genre crossover – jazz, complex metal, rock, post-rock. Indeed, presenters like to include on their MALSTROM concert posters "Jazz Metal" or a sentence with "progressive" or something similar. That is not wrong, because the band with Klaus-Dieter in albeit an unusual trio cast (drums, guitar and saxophone) continues to work on a form of experimental jazz which has great drive and frees the complexity of intricate progressive rock from all top-heaviness. And this electricity also contains surprisingly elegiac passages. "Somnambulism", for example, breaks out after two and a half minutes of the convoluted into a fantastic, euphoric saxophone melody. One of the many unexpected and beautiful moments on this album. The diagnosis "genre mix" is then misleading, because in the genre crossover, the individual parts remain separated from each other. MALSTROM, on the other hand, creates a musical river which sweeps along all that sits and stands on its banks and which then become incorporated. In this sense the music is a joyful mix similar to the jazz forms of the New York Downtown scene. At least the saxophonist Florian Walter is a little like John Zorn, guitarist Axel Zajac not dissimilar to Marc Ribot and drummer Jo Beyer not too far from Jim Black. Out of all of this something quite new emerges. Last but not least is the playfulness. Whoever creates composition titles such as "Pumps With Lumps" or "Klaus-Dieter Swims" and is not above latent absurdity (on what are the Smurfs surfing through the malstrom (maelstrom) – exactly, on the "Smurfboard") and so it becomes clear that the sacred serious must here take a break. The approach of MALSTROM to its music is basically very disengaged. Not that there should be a shortage of seriousness in jazz. Instead, mirth and ambivalence govern: the music tradition, developed here by MALSTROM, can be categorised as a beautiful old face which is worshipped, caressed and boxed in rapid succession. Apropos Klaus-Dieter. The track "Klaus-Dieter is disturbed" suggests imagining the title heroes of the album as rather conservative-minded jazz listeners. This music, when it really gets to him, can in the best sense truly disturb.
"Klaus-Dieter Swims", in turn, suggests that indeed courage has been found and one leaps into the maelstrom. We can imagine Klaus-Dieter as a happy person.
released November 19, 2021
Axel Zajac - Guitar
Florian Walter - Saxophone
Jo Beyer - Drums
Flutist and composer Nicole Mitchell tackles this eight-movement work with a drumless chamber quartet featuring some of the most forceful voices in improvised music. Bandcamp Album of the Day Aug 6, 2018