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4 stars Closer to 4.5 stars!

After a fabulous debut with Alpenglühen, Spaltklang returned two years later with their sophomore album entitled Surprise. The album's musical content in itself isn't a surprise, but it is surprising how much beauty and compositional skills are hidden within Markus Stauss's group of merry men.

The album may be called Surprise, but the music doesn't really come as a surprise. Musically, it picks up pretty much where Alpenglühen left off. Spaltklang have created their own unique style and they're sticking by it. I say all the more credit to them because they have truly created a fine blend of chamber music and scorching jazz rock. Surprise not only continues the legacy of Alpenglühen, but it is actually a step further in the group's development, with even more beautiful chamber melodies and even fiercer jazz rock playing.

It's so fresh to hear a band which is still capable of thrilling us with the quiet parts as well as the louder ones. The quiet segments seemed to have almost disappeared in the last years due to compression and modern production, but Spaltklang still deliver on this front, creating some very intense chamber moments, as well as some fierce jazz rock playing. Again, the musicians all put in stellar performances, helping to bring Markus's vision to life.

As I've said, regardless of the title, I'm not really all that surprised by what I hear here. Spaltklang have already proven themselves and this effort just reinforces their credibility as composers, arrangers and performers. Surprise is yet another excellent work, which gives me great pleasure every time I hear it. Spaltklang have already created their own sound with their previous effort, so this isn't that original, but in terms of sheer beauty and enjoyment Surprise certainly tops Alpenglühen.

Report this review (#302916)
Posted Saturday, October 9, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Wonderful album!

When I wrote my first Spaltklang review I mentioned that this is a band that I've been listening a lot for the last couple of months, and I have to confirm it, because I keep listening to them with the same enthusiasm I had when I got their albums. The fact is that the more you listen to their music, the more you are addicted to it, the reason: awesome music.

This Swiss quartet has developed some of the most exquisite instrumental avant-jazz I've recently discovered, so please if you can, get their albums, or at least start with one. This is their second effort released in 2004, and so far I may say my favorite Spaltklang album. It features eight compositions and a total time of 53 minutes.

The first song is pretty important because it introduces you to the music, so if a first track is good, then you will keep listening; I mention this because the first composition entitled "Inmitten" is one of my favorite tracks on the album, I believe they chose a perfect starting song, full of colors and textures, with great mood and music changes and different elements that together create a superb song.

Next is "Überall", a fast track that will make you move your body, the rhythm maintains you expectant all the time. I really like the bass sound here because in my opinion it produces a great but dark atmosphere. A minute later some strange change appear with electronic sounds reminding me to some sci-fi films, if you close your eyes you may feel in space, in another galaxy. Later violin appears and mark the beginning of a new structure that little by little arises.

"Patterns" is an excellent track that since the very first seconds will catch your attention, maybe due to the repetitive yet addictive sound it creates for more than a minute, then it slows down and create a tranquil atmosphere where the instruments are playing some random notes. A couple of minutes later the music explodes and some kind of chaos appear (I like chaos) and will put a smile on you. The saxophone sound is especially great.

"Sadness" starts very slow, I assume the music has to do with the name of the song, that is why that soft sound prevails, and a disarming atmosphere is created. After minute three there is some kind of tension, like if you felt despair of reaching a goal. Then the music slows down again and follows the same path until the very end.

"Irgendwo" seems to continue with the same feeling that the previous track had, this is actually a difficult song because you are dragging the last song mood, so with this you may feel even tired in some moments, but if you are patient enough, then a couple of minutes later you will have your reward. I like how they managed to create different moods in one single track. The last couple of minutes show the musician's skills and create a challenging sound. Great progressive song!

Again the bass sound is a highlight for me, in this song entitled "Spuren" which is another of my favorite tracks here. The repetition of the bass sound does not bore me, on the other hand, creates a true addiction, but the good thing is that the addiction does not restrict me of appreciating the other instruments, so I can easily enjoy each member's work, because all of them together complement each other, if one of them fails, then the music would not be the same.

"Flammen" is another great example of the great musicianship, the quality of the four members of the band and their abilities to compose first-class music. This eight-minute track transports you to another world due to the complexity of the music and the different nuances it produces. I really like the work of the saxophone sound here, but well, as I've mentioned, this is a complete quartet where the four people have the same importance.

And last but not least, "So weit das Auge reicht" which starts slowly with the violin but it gradually progresses until becoming in a strong and really interesting track. Again the changes within the structure are noticeable and challenging, the drums are especially good here. Minutes later they combine the electronic (spacey) elements with the distinctive Spaltklang sound (violin, sax, bass, drums) and end this album in an excellent way.

My final grade will be four stars, easily. If you manage to get their music, it won't let you down, believe me.

Enjoy it!

Report this review (#362827)
Posted Friday, December 24, 2010 | Review Permalink

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