Steamboat Switzerland


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Despite the fact that it was recorded and released roughly four years after Budapest and ac/dB [Hayden], Wertmüller remains very close to them in sound and style. The album's title is in honor of composer Michael Wertmüller, a drummer who has previously worked with Stephan Wittwer (who himself has written a number of pieces for Steamboat Switzerland) and Alboth (whose singer is featured here). Wertmüller is a 12-piece cycle entirely penned by its namesake for the trio, plus singer Daniel Lieder, who performs five poems by Michael Lenz. Except for the vocals, the music is pure Steamboat: heavy, loud, both macroscopically complex and microscopically minimalist. Dominik Blum's Hammond organ is thunderous in "VI" and "IV," among other places. Lucas Niggli's drumming rests somewhere between Mike Portnoy and Yoshimi P-We, while Marino Pliakas' electric bass often gets the stranger, more dissonant parts. Wertmüller's compositional approach differs from Sam Hayden (the featured composer on ac/dB [Hayden]) in that it relies less on pounding riffs and more on (a)tonal textures and melodic development -- another paradox for the trio to work from. Lieder's voice is obviously the new variable. Highly expressive, with a penchant for switching from whisper to scream in a nanosecond (anyone else reminded of Mike Patton?), the voice is used as a fourth instrument, blending in with the other parts. It is particularly convincing in "5:4 [darf das so sein]" and "rH.IH.IF.rF [schönheit]." Most of all, it expands the group's sound without denaturing it. The result is another strong, unique statement from one of the most unusual power trios in Europe.