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Stauss, Markus: 5 Compositions 2017-19 / Neolithicum Surprise

Possibly best known for his time in Spantklang, saxophonist Markus Stauss has over the decades moved from collaboration to band and back again. Hence very few of his albums display his name alone, as happens here on a twin pronged attack of 5 Compositions / Neolithicum Surprise. Although even then the ever modest musician adds the names of his ‘band’ mates on this release, Remy Sträuli, Damien Campion and Richard Koch, at the foot of the front cover.

Maybe most surprising here is that while for most this will be quite tough to break down jazz dominated by, at times, a blaring sax, for those more acquainted with the mainman’s work, the willingness to embrace structure and melody here is maybe more strongly felt than much (from what I’ve sampled online) of his previous work. Energy is key as “A New Hymn” bursts proceedings into life - in fact so much exuberance is displayed that the problem actually seems to be whether Stauss and his colleagues can keep it in check. Something that also comes through strong on “A Symmetrical Scale”, which is possibly one of the more readily accessible pieces in evidence.

Unusually, things are basically split into two separate categories on this album, 5 Compositions being the much more ‘straight forward’ of the pairing, while the latter comes under the name of Neolithicum Surprise which, to me anyway, will prove a much tougher nut for many to crack. With most of the 17 tracks in that second phase running at below the minute mark, these would appear to improvisations that channel a clanging, banging percussive edge (to the extent that one of my daughters looked at me askance while this was playing and stated ‘I think somebody just dropped something…’) to short blast of sax, all somehow bracketed together by the use of electronics and loops. In all honesty, it’s not for me. There’s no melody to latch onto here and little in the way of more conventual structure and while there’s undoubtedly a market for this, to my uneducated ear it’s merely a collection of sounds gathered up by the armful and allowed to then fall wherever they land.

I’m maybe the wrong audience for this - I need some sort of stronger and more intentional shape to my listening to reap rewards. Here, however, that could barely be further from the intention, never mind the results. If 5 Compositions proved a challenge - admittedly with some pay off - then Neolithicum Surprise offered a hurdle that stymied me at every attempt.

Track Listing
1. A new hymn
2. A first line afterwards
3. A so-called suite
4. A september tune
5. A symmetrical scale
6. Strahlen spezial
7. Improvisation B1
8. Eisen 3
9. Improvisation B2
10. Eisen 5
11. Improvisation A1
12. Eisen 6
13. Improvisation C1
14. Eisen 7
15. Rekonstruktion 1
16. Eisen 8 & 10
17. Eisen 9 & 11
18. Eisen 12
19. Rekonstruktion 2
20. Improvisation C2
21. for Jean
22. Happiness IV original

Added: April 21st 2020
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Markus Stauss online
Hits: 882
Language: english

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