7D Media 2022
Berne’s most elastic band banish studio sterility for a bout of finely detailed onslaught on their past.
Whereas some artists don’t take long to present their followers with a concert document, this Swiss experimentalists haven’t been in a hurry to do the same, preferring to explore the unknown recesses of improvisation from a walled-in environment, and surrendered to such call only twelve years into their existence, when it was time to cast a glance at earlier adventures. There’s not a vestige of the band’s fourth offering, "Depart" from 2019, even though a couple of pieces on display here were delivered after its recording. Instead, “Live” digs extensively into the ensemble’s first three albums and culls performances from the quintet’s home-turf shows of 2016-2020 vintage, which gel into a logical, in jazz terms, flow.
With all the originality of their aural imagery, on-stage AKKU locate themselves in no-man’s land between emotional intensity of SAN RA ARKESTRA and exquisite nuance of JADE WARRIOR and claim this ground as the group’s own. Their territory might not be as outlined in the studio, but in front of the audience the expansive “Waves” progresses, over the course of 28 magnificent minutes, from a nigh on intangible shimmer, whose not-so-barely-there, if ever-steady, pulse is propelled by Pasquinelli’s toms and Andi Schnellmann’s bass, via nervous ripples of Maja Nydegger’s ivories, to a full-on strum and then a six-string flight. Landing on a grand-piano-led elegy, the drift will retract to the initially claustrophobic “Polar” whence keyboards invite Michael Gilsenan’s sax and Markus Escher’s guitar for a nocturnal swirl inside the combo’s dynamic ballroom, before they’re left trembling in the eerie sonic blizzard only to get embraced by other instruments once again – passionately so.
Detachment may return on a quasi-subaquatic level to pull “Deep Sleep I” out of effects-drenched lethargy and throw the curveball for the rhythm section to bounce fun off of, but the result is too vibrant to not go into the red and leave the groove run free and rip synthesizers’ cobwebs to shreds that electric licks gladly put on the rocks and swallow. In such a light, the shadowy patterns of “Schneemann” feel somber until shards of brass interweave with black-and-white chords and soar alongside high notes and riffs peeled from a fretboard for a wild, albeit well-controlled, solo, and “Deep Sleep II” delves into the listener’s psyche by caressing their ear with fantastic, funk-tinctured interplay and individual spots and forms flaming fusion in the finale.