CD review

Julius Windisch Quartet – “Chaos”

Julius Windisch Quartet – Chaos

(Hout Records HR023. Album Review by Peter Slavid)

Julius Windisch is a young German pianist and composer. He studied originally in Bern and released his first album there in 2017. This was rapidly followed by another in 2018 with an electronic duo, and more electronics last year on bandcamp with three vocalists. This is the debut album for his quartet with fellow Berlin-based musicians: Icelandic alto saxophonist Sölvi Kolbeinsson, German bassist Felix Henkelhausen and Austrian drummer Max Santner.

All of them are in their 20s, and the band has a very distinctive sound. It comes as no great surprise to learn that after his studies in Switzerland, Windisch then got a masters degree at the Rhythmic Music Conservatory in Copenhagen – best known in the UK as the one-time home of Django Bates. Their characteristic approach to broken rhythms and quirky compositions are present all through this album.

The compositions are frequently characterised by simple riffs of only a few notes, repeated in different rhythms providing a base for the improvisation to take off.

The opening, and fairly descriptive, title track Chaos sets the scene. All the instruments appear on the surface to be playing slightly different variants of a simple riff which they start at irregular times. Somehow that works. The final short section sees a melodic, almost conventional improvisation from the piano, before it stops abruptly. The second track then continues something of a theme in the title by being called Pain, but it shows that they can be thoughtful and delicate as well.

Stand out track for me is Freude am Zahnrad (joy of the sprocket wheel). It starts with an improvised section that meanders its way to a melody. Then comes an interesting piano improvisation over a heavy broken pulse from the bass, with interjections from the sax followed by more of those trademark broken rhythms. One track, Zulassen (allowing) does start with what is almost a dance rhythm before it gets heavier, and the sound gets darker and the sax gets more wailing, and then some quiet, then another short repeated piano riff over which the sax takes us to the close.

If I have given an impression that the music is a mass of intricate and constantly shifting rhythms then that would be about right. What’s impressive is their ability to turn that into an enjoyable 40-minute album. I gather that the recording took place straight after a tour (remember them?) and no doubt that helped to create such a tight set of arrangements and interactions.

This is a young band, with musicians that will be new to many readers – they certainly were to me. The music is original, intricate and engrossing. I’ll definitely watch their progress with interest.

Peter Slavid broadcasts a programme of European Jazz on mixcloud.com/ukjazz and various internet stations

LINK: Chaos at Hout Records

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