Music Review

6 Nov 2017
Cuneiform Records
Formats also available: CD, vinyl
CD, vinyl

Tight doesn’t even begin to describe the high level of interplay displayed by this Swiss guitar bass drums trio. Somehow, with just four albums under their belt they have managed to map out an alternative route to  the conventional guitar-led power trio format and take it to an altogether different level. Schnellertollermeier is in fact  Andi Schnellmann on bass, Manuel Troller on guitar and David Meier on drums. These three musicians have been working together as a band for more than ten years and  have produced three albums  Holz (2008), Zorn einen ehmer üttert stem!! (2010) and X (2015) before this new album made in 2016 during the band’s residency at the Südpol cultural centre in Lucerne.

Schnellertollermeier composed and rehearsed new material in different rooms of the house, and performed the initial results in a series of concerts. They sketched out their material, adapted it, took it apart, and put it back together again like highly skilled engineers.  Schnellmann, Troller and Meier, it has to be said, belong to a younger generation that takes heavy metal, hip hop, grunge and electronica in its stride. Their idea of a power trio is a million miles away from the long soloing excursions of bands like Cream. Their music always starts from the ground up, building and developing one idea, adding a series of powerful crescendos to it with the occasional solo foray. Here, every single note has a clear, precise function in the building and development of the whole piece. If ever you wished to hear precise mechanical engineering in music, this is probably it. And yet it sounds so natural and organic. Using the lilting minimalism of early 80s King Crimson as a point of departure, the trio inject into it a much tighter  series of bass and drums interactions underpinning cyclical and mesmerizing arrangements, full of off kilter  phrasings and devastating guitar riffs.  

Going along this high voltage rollercoaster ride, we finally discover how it is possible to connect the more avant side of progressive rock with post rock’s math-like inclinations and fuse them with eerie, improvised industrial soundsculptures. Bands like Battles had in the past got very near this kind of approach but never quite with the same level of detail and intensity. Whilst the band’s approach is undoubtedly embedded in mechanical minimalism, when they break ranks, the end result is more often than not quite surprising. On the opening ‘Rights’, the band suddenly breaks from it’s rampant, highly strung cycle leading the listener into a fractured David Torn-like post industrial desolation. It’s a moment of  respite before taking the piece into it’s devastating finale.

Essentially, what makes the difference here and in the other three compositions is  the  clever use of  loops, treatments and delays which adds a strong visual dimension to their music. The original idea built from the ground up, expanded and empowered by high octane riffing suddenly turns into a mesmerising industrial sound sculpture bursting the notion that rock music might be dead after all these years. Following carefully the band’s train of thought, we become at one with the sound, taking in every nuance and detail; nothing is thrown in our face and so the music comes alive with tons of raw emotion and we are all there in the middle of it. Riveting stuff indeed.

Charles Imperatori