(All Album Reviews by maribor)
I've already written so much about Markus Stauss and his projects that I sometimes feel like I have nothing new to add. But just when I think I can't write anything new about his music, his compositions inspire me again. This is how it was when I heard Spaltklang's first album, entitled Alpenglühen.
All the compositions were written by Markus Stauss (like on most of the projects he's involved in), except for a few short excerpts, which were a joint effort. We are once more faced with the man's ability to write extremely "happy" melodies at one moment and extremely complex, intricate and even sinister segments at other times. Nothing is beyond his capabilities and he leaves no stone unturned. He exploits all of his talents and as many musical influences as possible. The end result is usually music that's beyond reproach both in terms of melody and innovation - Alpenglühen is the perfect example of this.
This album is filled with many fascinating rhythm changes, up-tempo segments and also many slower parts that build in intensity. It isn't boring for a single second and a lot of this has to do with the variety of stiles they deal with here. Most of the album is a shrine to innovation. Even though the genres they deal with have all been tackled by other artists, Spaltklang redefine the music and put a different spin on everything. Their variety of jazz-rock sounds unlike any other jazz-rock out there, with hints of folk, classical, avant-garde and lots more.
The musicians shine as usually. Stauss's soft and hard saxophone lines are brilliant as always. The violin adds a special flavour to the music - sometimes it makes you recall the jazz-rock stylings of Jean-Luc Ponty or Jerry Goodman, but at other times it sounds classical or even folky. The bass is expressive and stands out on its own. The lines are not really typical for an instrument in the rhythm section, they're much more varied and intricate than what we're used to. Unlike the other Spaltklang albums, Rémy Sträuli fits a few more of his keyboard parts in here. Thus we are able to hear some very tasty synthesizer segments, including the warm sound of the mellotron, among others. He also enthralls us with his impressive drumming skills, which are, just like the bass, anything but ordinary.
Seeing as this is the band's first album, someone who was unaware of the band members before this release might think this would be a typical first album - full of enthusiasm and eagerness, but also full of sloppy mistakes and compositional inexperience. There are no such problems here. The eagerness and dynamics of a band's first album are here, but the compositions are finely honed and are obviously a work of skilled professionals (meaning all the members). The arrangements (not the flower kind) are also exceptional, which merely exhibits the talents of the group. It's true that Alpenglühen is their first effort and the subsequent releases would just keep on getting better, but this album was the one which defined the essence of Spaltklang's sound and music.