This is music of the extreme, but it is also intricate and difficult, both for performer and listener. At first blush, the sounds may appear as randomly produced, and freely improvised without constraint. But Daniel Studer, who leads this exotic quintet though his suite purportedly describing ancient and modern Rome, is too sophisticated and clever to merely let everyone go at his (or in this case, her) whim. Rather, the pieces are loosely structured, almost thematic, clearly heading somewhere (where?), but immersed in abstraction. On its face, the instrumentation is unusual but not unwieldy: trombone, clarinet, bass, violin, and voice, something suited for almost anything from Dixieland to the avant-garde. While the players are given considerable freedom, patterns emerge, and there is a coordinated effort that flows from Studer's exquisite writing and guiding hand. The results are sometimes intense and intricate, as, for example, on the lengthy "Teil 3," where Giancarlo Schiaffini's muted trombone jabs and jolts sporadically while the strings come and go with emotional fanfare and Silvia Schiavoni pulls and stretches sounds like they were warm taffy. Schiavoni generally does not articulate actual words ("Teil 4" is a major exception), yet she sings with such singular conviction and bold dynamics that it is easy to forget that the phrases she tosses off so cavalierly are not always intended to make sense. Studer's bass is rarely in the foreground, but his presence is everywhere, whether as the composer of every track or as the underlying glue that directs the traffic. Think of the proverbial drunken sailor, but throw in some weird pronouncements and radical improvisations colored by a dark, nightmarish veil, and you have a sense of the depth of the recording. Let's just say you probably won't hear it on the elevator or in the grocery store.
AllMusic Review by Steve Loewy