Laura Schuler Quartet – Sueños Paralelos
(Antidro Records . Album review by Peter Slavid)
Laura Schuler is a Swiss composer, singer and violinist who describes this album as an attempt to capture the feeling of a rush-hour subway in New York City. She is joined here by fellow countrymen Hans-Peter Pfammatter on Synths and Lionel Friedli on Drums, plus New York resident Tony Malaby on Tenor sax.
Schuler was lucky enough to get a grant from the government of the Canton of Bern to spend half a year in New York, and the city clearly made a strong impression on her. Sadly, the idea of a Government grant for musicians to travel abroad like that, is not a concept that has much traction here in the UK. Schuler seems to have learned a lot, and made a lot of musical connections whilst there.
Chaos, in a good way, is the right word to describe the approach in which this album mixes prog-rock beats, complex interacting rhythms, classical and dissonant violin, wordless chants and free improvised passages. There are also plenty of more lyrical sections – particularly from Malaby.
The album opens with a theme driven by the synth with wordless vocals over a staccato drum rhythm. Malaby plays a melody over the top and then the violin and sax intermingle with the synths to create a shifting soundscape over compulsive drum rhythms.
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The real Prospect Park in Brooklyn can be a peaceful place in the midst of chaos, and this second track has a similar effect.
Easy opens with melodic saxophone over slightly dissonant violin and a gentle rhythm. Gradually this becomes more fragmented, the violin and sax play their own parts, occasionally meeting and then parting. Everything builds up to a crescendo of intermingled sounds, before the music calms to a melodic end.
The final, lengthy track, is called Baby it’s FreeJazz. This starts gently, then continues the approach of shifting rhythms, start-stop punctuations and dramatic synths and wordless vocals with sudden changes of style, until it all fades.
This is an album that warrants multiple listens. It’s complexity gradually resolves itself until you come to understand it – a bit like the city of New York that inspired it.
Peter Slavid broadcasts a programme of European Jazz on mixcloud.com/ukjazz and various internet stations
LINK: Laura Schuler’s website