"I use music as a medium to talk to other people", Sun Ra once revealed. The Düsseldorfer Stefan Schwander would agree with this statement by the avantgarde jazz great, though he would not necessarily sign his name to it. He also speaks to people through music. Yet he also likes to let music talk to music. Since 2008, as Harmonious Thelonious, on numerous EPs and two albums, he blends the reduced patterns and structures of American minimalist music with African, Latin American and Caribbean rhythms.
For his new work "Santos", which he sees as an LP with a unified concept, he embarked on a mental journey to the north of the African continent and became entranced by Moroccan trance music. The resulting pieces are light, with traces of pop, interweaving the atmospheres of the Master Musicians Of Joujouka and Gnawa music with the driving force of techno. This time Schwander invited a handful of guest musicians to serve as sound sources. The Berliner Ghazi Barakat, former bass player of Stereo Total and man behind the psychedelic experimental project Pharoah Chromium, contributed modified sounds from his Moroccan flute. A second guest musician is the Cologne-based composer Volker Zander, who has long played double bass and electric bass with Calexico. For songs like "Mountains" or "Belloumi" he played a melody on the Turkish Tambur, lending an oriental flair to the vital rhythms of the tracks. The intricate rhythmic patterns also incorporate instruments such as banjo, mandolin and Afro-Cuban drums, played by the percussionist Stefan Suhr, who studied Afro-Cuban ritual drumming in Cuba.
Schwander's electronic sequencing blurs these organic sources and brings them into a fluid dialogue with his electronic ideas. For a piece like "Rendezvous of the Dead", for example, Harmonious Thelonious projected himself out of the studio onto the Djemaa el Fna square in Marrakech. Here, every evening after sunset, local musicians meet and play themselves into a frenzy on distorted mandolins. Harmonious Thelonious translates this dream into a quaking dance monster whose home might be a techno club with an experimental sonic approach. Of course, most of the pieces of "Santos" are heavily danceable, although this time Harmonious Thelonious' tracks roll a little slower than previously. Their rugged beauty has also given way to a very smooth sound. His music, however, has lost none of its complexity. The many voices speak together, propelling each other toward something that traverses traditional genre boundaries, creating a playful trance.
The cover of "Santos" underscores this: It is a collage designed by the artist himself, depicting his notion of an all-star band. Everyone must decipher for themselves exactly who is to be found there. Here, once again, the pictures are not direct portrayals, but veiled references to an emotional state hidden far beyond the visual realm. Just like the music of Thelonious Harmonious, which uses various layers tell countless stories.
Artist: Harmonious Thelonious
Format: LP+CD / Digital
Cat. No.: ITA102
Release date: 10 April 2015
℗ 2015 Italic Recordings © 2015 Italic Songs