Henrik Schwarz is a recurring name around these parts. His jazz and classical influenced strain of techno/house manages to be minimal and also sublime, generally augmenting the usual head nodding beats with some beautiful melodies. Lush strings, far removed from the generic ‘anthemic dancefloor violins’, are a frequent feature, along with his love of the blue notes and jazz and ethnic tones. His latest project, Duo, a collaborative Lp with pioneering jazz keyboardist Bugge Wesseltoft was released this week on Mulemuziq and Wesseltoft’s own imprint, Jazzland records.
Since the mid nineties Wesseltoft has been a big player in the modern Jazz world, contributing the magnificent ‘New Conception of Jazz’ in 1997. This record sat perfectly between the late night atmospherics of the idm movement of the time and the more traditional feel of a jazz record. It’s combination of electronics and programming with the organic tones of double bass and brass took it one step further than the borrowed jazz motifs in the trip hop movement. It is clear that this techno loving jazz pianist and the jazz loving techno producer have clear areas of overlap.
Duo comprises of 8 tracks of varying tone and mood, ranging from the ambient and cinematic to the deep and urgent techno numbers. At times the piano is reminiscent of a laid back Keith Jarret, but set on top of skittering percussion and resonating bass. The appropriately named album opener ‘First Track’ evolves from smooth beginnings into an electronic crescendo, industrial sounds and weird electronics changing the mood of the track into something much more intense. Amongst the other tracks there’s a beautiful reinterpretation of Schwarz’s ‘Leave My Head Alone Brain’, the more refined and subtle percussion giving the piano greater room to breathe. The single from the collection ‘Kammermusik’ is a sublime piece of music. The quality of the record as a whole is excellent, but it’s on this track that the strengths of both collaborators are best combined and distilled into a gorgeous piece of electronic music.
This album will appeal to fans of ambient techno, and the more laid back work of the Scando disco crew, but also to anyone who can appreciate true musicianship, something which is missing from too many current records. It is available at Piccadilly now.