Armchair Traveller

Schöne Aussicht

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The blend of acoustic plucking, low reed instrument playing, and here-and-there electronic tones that start Schöne Aussicht help confirm that Armchair Traveller are into their own take on moody jazz-inspired playing for a new century -- there's something that feels like it can't help but sit between several stools at once (and feel more at home there than anywhere else). If the quarter-plus-hour "Walking Tracks" thrives on the blend of each of its elements it's because the supposed differences in instrumentation mean less than the fusion of them all, as any good improvisatory group knows; hearing clarinet moans and a slow breakdown into distant drum hits and deep echo concluding the lengthy piece are just two strong moments of many. The title track is another highlight, with what appears to be either harmonium or accordion providing a sort of melody line after a rougher start, while an echoed loop of a noise chugs below before acoustic guitar again takes the lead while huge, distant squalls of sound -- possibly distorted horns, possibly guitar, possibly something else -- burst out in the background, all while a soft further drone plays. There's a fair strain of Steve Reich's obsessive rhythmic minimalism creeping in at points too, as "Reisefieber" demonstrates, but the squalling sax and sudden electronic roars and whooshes have their own angry logic above the quick strum and pacing of the other instruments. "Jetlag" makes for a calmer if still a little off the beaten path conclusion, tones and soft playing taking the lead but with a nagging high-treble pitch.

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