Roland Bühlmann 2022
Soaring on Swiss fantasies to imaginary regions of psyche, Solothurn polymath sculpts a solo chef-d’oeuvre.
Inhabiting different dimensions has long become Roland Bühlmann’s way of life yet, for all his aural flights into other worlds, this multi-instrumentalist’s albums were always rooted in reality – until the arrival of “Emnalóc” and its array of purely progressive pieces titled with a made-up words which create a particular mood for every number on display. One may argue such approach will project escapism onto each of the imagined routes – only the journey offered here matters much more than any endpoint, and the voyage’s results are so tangible – so nobody should blame Bühlmann for mapping terrestrial geography over his musical vista. What Roland excelled in when embarking on the next trip is shaping a mind-capsule for the listener to accompany him.
From the deep soundscape of opener “Umiion” whose fragile, flute-like echo gets shattered by a heavy shaft of a swirling riff and is salvaged by twangy strum before six-string solo shoots up to a bass-punctured and synthesizer-painted celestial ceiling, to the epic finale of the record’s titular track where Luca Calabrese’s trumpet licks unfold a smooth jazz panorama and let noises strike it to lay the ground for Bühlmann’s worried-guitar blues, there’s hardly a non-breathtaking moment. Look past the funky caress of “Assailen” which has effervescent new-age married to Roland’s angular, hard-rock figure and Angelo Lebrato’s flamenco filigree, and see the drift gradually morph into fusion for the brass-splashed boss nova behind “Sevamção” to seem logical, while the initially incongruous techno jive of expansive “Rithnál” begins to sound cerebral once sharp flurries of notes roll off the fretboard to swing and float in the air. This clears the ether for the pulsing, polyrhythmic romanticism of “Yndrun” and for the glacial “Berithlan” – with the gloomy symphony “Letarladoth” between the two and David Cross‘ bow movements, hidden in plain view, stitching the sonic tapestry together.
It’s a riveting kaleidoscope that can be enjoyed from many an angle for a long, long time, warranting “Emnalóc” the status of a classic.