attacca: o' the emotions!

On paper, attacca, a trio founded in Berlin in 2010 and featuring trombonist Matthias Müller, guitarist Dave Bennett, and bassist Axel Haller, might perhaps suggest a group specializing in intimate, small jazz interplay. Instead, the group's debut CD, o' the emotions!, reveals that the trio's sound is rooted in the avant-garde tradition of boundary-pushing and is, in fact, more post-punk angularity than anything remotely resembling traditional jazz. Müller and Bennett in particular seem hellbent on redefining their instruments' sounds, with Bennett serving up an endless array of scrabbly lines and textures and Müller side-stepping most of the conventional sounds associated with the trombone. Using all manner of resourceful techniques, Müller expands the instrument's range considerably such that whooshes, belches, and smears become more the norm than the exception. It's telling that the first glimmer of the trombone's familiar sound doesn't surface until the seventh of the album's ten tracks, “It Happened When the Sun Fell,” wherein Müller's blistered moan crawls through a death-strewn landscape conjured by Haller and Bennett.

The attacca template is established immediately in “We Intended Firing Simultaneously” when Haller's unwavering bass patterns anchor a series of dissonant guitar scrapings and mutant, barely recognizable trombone expressions. The album's longest piece, “Living by Fiction” smolders, screeches, and squalls for nearly ten, dirge-like minutes, while “Werfen,” “La roque,” and “Nova Nova” find the trio collectively generating wrist-slashing meltdowns of bruising noise and sputter. Recorded in two days, the forty-five minute collection alternates between two-minute salvos and longer explorative improvs. During its brief tenure, attacca has clearly developed a distinctive group sound, though one more inclined to fray than settle the listener's nerves. It's not for the faint of heart, but o' the emotions! carries on the schraum tradition of producing uneasy listening of the kind one would hardly expect to hear on a Blue Note or ECM release.

September 2012