CD Hymnolia (release 8.11.2013)
A guitar sound that dives into the terrestrial hemisphere, like from a distant orbit, drums that carefully scan and sense the unfamiliar sound, and finally, a bass groove whose gravitation pulls them both down to the ground. Welcome to “Hymnolia”, the Melt Trio’s second album.
Just a moment! A second album of the Melt Trio? Was there a first? Who is the Melt Trio? Let us take a short tour through the time tunnel. Two years ago the Trio Meyer-Baumgärtner-Meyer from Berlin astounded laymen and experts equally. The brothers Peter and Bernhard Meyer on guitars and bass, and drummer Moritz Baumgärtner invented a sound that boldly yet humbly overrode all established concepts of jazz improvisation, alternative rock, ambient and experience of nature translated to sound, but even surpassed all known syntheses, avantgardisms and overlappings. A sound that unfolded its bouquet light-years away from any crossover. In free flight the three Berliners betook themselves from the known galaxies to a new sound-quadrant, that gets by without any exhibitionism. The abysmally overrated solo in jazz cannot be found here. To Meyer-Baumgärtner-Meyer it was all about degrees of density, states of matter and atmospheres. The group-conducive restraint of the three individual masters is exactly what accounts for the trio’s unique charm. And what was the name of their first album? “Melt”
Compared to the trio’s music, which is elegant and dynamic in every regard, its logo, Meyer-Baumgärtner-Meyer, admittedly sounds a little bulky. But one who provokes motion in music, is capable of the same in his head. And since the album title “Melt” so congenially describes the agenda of this trio, Meyer-Baumgärtner-Meyer, without further ado, turned into the Melt Trio.
“Hymnolia” continues exactly where “Melt” left off and yet at the same time expands the scope widely. Much that applied to “Melt” can be said with good conscience about “Hymnolia” as well. There is still this symbiotic expressiveness, in which composed, improvised and parts freely associated from pure sound organically flow into each other. The three musicians newly negotiate their shares and positions in every piece, consistently find surprising approaches to one another, collectively generate soundscapes, but are also absorbed in overlappings and interferences. Togetherness can lie in the absolute mergence, but also in the sum of the threefold individual.
The new band name makes even more sense in regard of these extremely flexible group dynamics. Due to their manifold shared experiences, the initial polarity between the Meyer brothers and Baumgärtner, which was still noticeable on “Melt”, has since dissolved. The three protagonists have audibly strengthened their mutual starting basis. Mood and atmosphere are still in the foreground of their collective playing, from which song-like motifs or free improvisations sprout. The sources of the separate sounds are not always clearly distinguishable. What may sound like a synthesizer or a shrill modified guitar sound, could also come from a cymbal. The pool of ideas of the three musicians permeates itself in an impressive manner. But the postulate of the band isn’t called “Melt” for nothing.
However, the band also shows clearly more courage to contour on “Hymnolia”. Without any individual solos happening, in some parts one of the voices is carved out over the band context. Concrete melodies that seemingly coincidentally crystalize out of the collective floating manifest themselves and stick in your ear. These melodies are of such compelling beauty, that they want to be heard again and again. And they are so catchy, that one believes to have known them for many years, exactly as if every sunrise emerged around these melodies. From this delight of melody and therefrom derived phrasing and modification automatically leads to a greater nearness to jazz, that identifies itself as a commentary totally free of convention to the possibilities of jazz improvisation.
These sound-poetic correlations alone would be enough to explain the album title. Hymnolia: a gloriole of hymn-like twinkling, a diaphanous cloud of sound-light. Yes, it may sound a little kitschy, but the music of the Melt Trio really does catch the human primeval desire for harmony and perfection. These pieces uncoil unique psycho-acoustic landscapes like surrealistic labyrinths, in which one longs to get lost in, out of which one wishes to never find the way out again. Once more the listener can easily put himself into the almost hypnotic amazement that may have overcome the three musicians during the creation of this music.
In spite of all that, there is an entirely different reason for the title. Originally the band made a point of finding a jazz-untypical title that sounds like a mix of hymn, magnolia and distant planets. But as if the impartial element of surprise was the main theme of the Melt Trio per se, the three musicians were quite astonished when they found evidence in a document from 1899, that there is actually an instrument of that name. The hymnolia is a portable pipe organ that apparently wasn’t all that rare around 1900. “This instrument would definitely have its place in one or another music piece of our band,” Bernhard Meyer exults. And without wanting to become too esoteric, maybe a couple of spiritual vibrations of the hymnolia have crawled from the universe back into this music.
Either way, the Melt Trio is and will be a guitar trio that does without any comparison. Melt is neither Nirvana on jazz nor Bill Frisell Trio in rock and also not Massacre in ambient. Melt is Melt; unique, individual, absorbing and touching, spreading its wings like an albatross, so closely calling from a far distance.
CD Melt (release 9.9.2011)
How often does it happen that music sounds so new, as if we’d never heard anything comparable to it? That it unnervingly stimulates us, leaving more questions behind than answers? In the past two decades, the world of jazz and rock has presented us with innumerable guitar trios from Nirvana to the latest Bill Frisell Trio. Yet Meyer – Baumgärtner – Meyer’s first joint album “Melt” does not begin where other guitar trios leave off, instead they start from scratch, as if this was their very first guitar-bass-drums band. M-B-M are not the latest thing or the next trend, they are creating their very own urban worlds of sound. And any namedropping here would lead to nowhere.
The guitar player, Peter Meyer, the bass player, Bernhard Meyer, and the drummer Moritz Baumgärtner are no strangers to the Berlin jazz scene. The Meyer brothers always performed as a unit, whether it was in the Lea W. Frey Trio or in the MSV Brecht band. Baumgärtner, on the other hand, belongs to one of the most active figures in the Berlin improvisational composition scene featuring Johannes Lauer, Marc Muelbauer and Daniel Glatzel. The Meyers have gathered extensive experience in guitar trios, whereas this is a completely new experience for Baumgärtner. However, for all three parties, this is a departure into the unknown.
So what makes this trio so special? What do M – B – M have that other guitar trios don’t have? What makes them beyond all comparison? Over the years of playing together, the Meyer brothers have acquired a symbiotic density of expression, making it almost impossible to separate the compositional and improvisational aggregate states, or even to hear the individual sources of sound. It’s almost impossible for Baumgärtner to simply keep up. He doesn’t pretend to be the third brother, but sets different accents, letting himself speed up or fall behind the music, finding interferences and overlapping, drawing closer to the duo within the trio and then distancing himself again from them. In each of the songs, the angles and sides of their joint triangle are incessantly being adjusted. “Only the smallest portion of these worlds of sound come from jazz”, explains Moritz Baumgärtner. “We apply indie rock and electronic music that has a distinct consciousness of the world of sounds to improvisation.”
Baumgärtner and both the Meyers have not been making music together in this form for all that long. At first, mutual interest led to several performances in which free playing was combined with a marked interest in a form off the beaten path of jazz. At one of these gigs, the until then loosely associated trio drew the attention of the sound engineers Christian Farcher and Victor Meding. From the start, their enthusiasm was so great that they invited the threesome to record an album in Stockholm. Suddenly the band had to make their prior improvisational and compositional experience audible to the whole world. Apart from the familiar material, new pieces were created whereby in most cases clear moods set the improvisational dynamic. Improvisation is hereby never an end in itself. On the contrary, it is logical anticipation and continuation of the composition, moving from an initial starting point towards a clearly defined point. The consequence with which the band hangs on to this principle boils down to a composed blurring in the improvisation.
This is how the trio works with different densities. Some of them are reminiscent of Suprematist paintings in the style of Malewitsch and El Lissitzky, in which the painters appear to let clear, geometric forms run imperceptibly towards or away from each other, thereby causing either turbulence or relaxation. The three musicians densify their independent, individual statements into a common story in a similar way. “I‘ve known the brothers for a long time and was always fascinated by their joint sound cloud”, Baumgärtner says of this process. “They are both amplified electrically and work with reverb and loops. It’s not simple for a drummer to acoustically enter this world. This creative challenge allows me to play things that I don’t hear in other instrumentations. I’m reminded of shifting forms, like a kaleidoscope for example. Things that fit together, but constantly remain in motion.
The instrumental functions are exactly divided between the three band members, yet when listened to, the band reveals itself as a unit of three subjective voices in an equal exchange and not so much a combination of guitar, bass and drums. Especially Baumgärtner’s playing is unbelievably melodic. He’s possibly one of the best drumming guitar players in Europe. “I enjoy using grooves”, he admits, “but I have a melodic voice, that I need to lend expression to. Unfortunately, I don’t play a melodic instrument, but I can also describe motions with the drums. In return, in some of the pieces the Meyers depart from the melodies or transform the melodies into sounds. This approach is a link between us. Melodies are lines for improvisations that can also sound without notes.”
M – B – M don’t necessarily make it easy on the listener. They take him into an urban jungle in which he must consciously fight for his listening experience. “Melt” is not suitable as background music. This music needs to be listened to intensely and as often as possible. The depth effect is amazing. Innumerable details reveal themselves in microstructures, perhaps after the tenth round of listening. As a result, the CD grows on you continuously. The band’s threefold astonishment at their own sound creation carries over effortlessly to the listener. The three musicians keep the context open on purpose, so that each question evokes a new question, but the answer remains elusive.
“ Melt” is a convincing alternative to iTune’s philosophy, according to which every musical message must be revealed within the first 30 seconds. Here the entire piece is always the message and together the nine messages on the CD produce a story. “Melt” is one of the few musical adventures that begin exactly now at this moment and moves consistently in only one direction: towards the future.