Roland Bühlmann 2019


Swiss visualist serves up an impressive set of many-colored vignettes – occasionally abstract but given a sense of utmost significance.

Roland Bühlmann used to see the world through the absent lens of camera obscura, yet that doesn’t mean the music he’s been making for the last five years is an upside down reflection of our reality. Sometimes fractal, because this artist focuses on fragments, it’s full of nuanced minutiae, while the whole will always find a way to bind the smallest details the multi-instrumentalist from Switzerland may throw in the mix – including such found objects as wrenches or branches – into a single image.

The eight cuts which comprise his third album are evocative without relying on vocals, even though a ghostly voice woven into the bluesy “Miserere” helps anchor the magnificent piece’s floating facets, but guitars carry melodic weight with much progressive grace and gusto to shift the tunes through intoxicating paces and pay little attention to genre-defined frontiers. It’s not only for the hue that wine glasses pour their singing into “Kaiilen” and “Subconsciously” – respectively, the record’s riff-ruffled opener and epic, stained-glass-like finale – where the wide harmonic swathes suddenly shed dynamic assault in favor of an exquisite filigree and get propelled by heavy bass towards fusion-esque waters which somehow makes perfect sense; it’s for the vertiginously blissful effect.

Not for nothing one of the numbers on display is named “Higgayon” – meaning “logic” in Hebrew: there’s a well-sustained, solemn spirituality in the sparsely ticking drone this and a few other tracks lay on the rock altar, albeit kinnor added to “Uvkal” and shofar to “Arabon” abet the strings in fusing ebb and flow into a gravity-defying, if hefty, drift. Yes, the licks and rumble of “Buzzing” feel fluid and flavored with Eastern promise at the same time, yet the album’s titular composition offers a funereal – reminiscent of “Death Walks Behind You” – psychedelia.

Vibrant and translucent, “Crucial” is a suspenseful masterpiece, a sonic cathedral of sorts. With a vision like this, Roland must not be an obscure artist anymore.


August 28, 2019

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