Schole Records open their 2020 account with the return of three of their artists, Germany’s Jochen Tiberius Koch, France’s Quentin Sirjacq and England’s Dakota Suite (aka Chris Hooson). Sirjacq and Hooson are long time artists and collaborators for the label, while Koch is making his second appearance after his “Walden” album.

 

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“Jochen Tiberius Koch, a German musician who made a Schole Record debuted in 2018, will be releasing his second full album. His previous album was produced from the inspiration from the best American non-fiction book “Walden – Life in the Woods”, and his new album is also produced with the similar concept. This album tells a story about the history of “Astoria”, a hotel built in 1915 located at Leipzig, Germany. The building was damaged during the war and air raid, but it has been refurbished brilliantly then became as the most beautiful building in the country. The music tells a story, how it was affected from the political issues and survived during the period of division and reunification of the country, until the closure of the hotel. Also, this story also can be read from the CD booklet.

As compared to his previous work which he used the classical instruments as a composition, this new album gives an impression that he adds some electronic sound into music, and the selected spoken words from each singer creates one and only worldview structured with thoroughness. This helps to introduce the aesthetic senses of this hotel for those who don’t know its history.”

If going on the themes of his two albums you would say that literature is a string source of inspiration for Koch. It would be apparent that story telling through his music is part of his style. For this album he uses a variety of singers and vocal artists such as Minna, Astrid Hoeschel-Bellmann and Rainier C Herzmann to name a few, to help convey his messages. This follows a path that was set out on his first album “Walden”. The press release intimates to a more electronic sound, which is noticed throughout. Electronics were part of his debut, but for the most part they where used to accent the pieces as opposed to be a central core, or the entirety of the pieces on “Walden”. With this subtle change in the presence of electronics in his pieces, his music is re-framed away from the more classical stylings of before.

Once more utilising the talents of The Schmalkalden Philharmonic Orchestra, Koch obtains a highly powerful form of music. The opening two tracks “Prologue” and “Uplifting Monument” flow on nicely from “Walden” in style and by the time the third piece “Sunrising” takes hold, the blending of Classical and Electronic elements becomes apparent and this track signals the difference between this album and it’s predecessor. The balance flips more to the electronic side on the poppy “Behind The Backdrop” which slightly brings to mind label mate K-Conjog. The way that Koch integrates his two main modes of music on this album is best shown in the track “The Lobby Boys” for the way that it flows effortlessly between the two styles, while both have a hand in giving the music an epic presence. 

Some artists when they fuse electronics with modern classic they use it more to create a point of difference. Ie: the piece is predominantly Modern Classical but with a contemporary spin on it. With the pieces here rather that placing them alongside each other, Koch chooses to make them part of the whole and the great success of the album is the way that flow together with a seamless approach. For the most part Koch is a classical composer as evident by the likes of “Another World” or “Decline”, but what he demonstrates on the album is the interest in expanding on what he has done in the past and exploring newer territories. If he continues in this way only time will tell.

“Astoria” is available on CD and Digital.

 

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“My journey with Quentin has brought us to this place where the thing we create is what seems to us to be the logical step to take from the last music we made. We started with large works for many parts and people and ended up with an almost whisper on our last recording (Wintersong), stripping back the songs until there was almost nothing left but the pure essence of it. This record feels to me to be almost a collected conscious ‘voice’ which we have found after our journeys together. This brother of mine, cut from the same wood, flowing out to the same ocean. When we met I knew there was something about him that I would need to keep around me. What I could not know was that he would become like a brother to me. So it is with the music we create.

We set out to combine two of the influences which form the centre of how we interact with the world, firstly to understand our relationships with our women (Johanna for me, Aurelie for Quentin) and secondly to celebrate our deep love and connection to Japan and its mindset.

Quentin and I had three days of recording in the beautiful Okurayama Hall in Yokohama and had travelled with a few small ideas of what we would create. The idea was to create music in the moment, created from the very core of who we are. It was intimidating but I count those days with Quentin amongst the very best times of my life, days we flowed as one into the fog of these songs, wrestling them from the breeze. None of the things you hear now existed at all before then, and feeling them come to us was magical. Quentin’s work was mystical and profound to watch as he arranged these pieces, at times I could not tell where the music was coming from.”

 

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The duo of Hooson and Sirjacq are well acquainted with each other having already released “Wintersong” (2016) , “The Language Of Abandoned Lives” (2014), “There Is Calm To Be Done” (2014), “The Side Of Her Inexhaustible Heart” (2011) and “Valissa” (2010) together. Their latest release “The Indestructibility Of The Already Felled” continues their partnership  with music that includes influences such as post rock, minimalism, modern classical and cinematic scores. There is a lot of space in the pieces on the record, it is less about what is missing and more about what is there. In some ways it reminds me of the recent Alvaret Ensemble album “ea” that I just reviewed purely because of the space given to the pieces. As proven collaborators with each other and many other artists, both Hooson and Sirjacq have a way of slotting in with their collaborators nicely.

The pieces on the album are introspective without descending into full blown melancholy. By managing to rein this element in, the pieces become thoughtful without overpoweringly sad. This introspection allows for the music to reveal it’s beauty as well as it’s nakedness. A piece like “Kintsugi (金継ぎ)” flows through the emotions moving from pensive to near moments of joy which is line with the title which means a Japanese art of repairing broken pottery, which could be a metaphor for fixing broken relationships or like minded things in life. A piece like “These Nights Within You” highlights the cinematic background of Sirjacq and while it would appear that Hooson has not done soundtrack work (or none that I could find), he certainly has an ear for what makes this style tick.

Some time back in the 1980’s I was poisoned to the idea of vocalists. I blame growing up in a time when extreme poseurs like Bono set the scene for what it meant to be a singer. Try as I may to differentiate from the pomp rock of that particular vocalist, I unfortunately tar the majority of singers with the same brush. It could also be the reason that emotion that is expressed through the medium of singing is more raw and reflective and too real to deal with in comparison to that that is conveyed via music. For that reason my interest is more towards the instrumental pieces, though I do detect a Jeff Tweedy style characteristic of Hooson’s vocals which I am appreciative of. The music is what draws me in with it’s simple beauty, well thought out and highly composed feel. It shows two musicians whose experience allows them to nicely craft pieces that hold your attention while providing food for thought.

For a eleven track album that sounds like this one does, minimal, full of space and highly composed, it comes as a surprise that it was only recorded in three days. Usually works that come across as strong as these tend to take a lot more time. Again this reflects back to the two artists and the way that they seem to speak the same musical  language. The sad surprise is that according to his website this is Hooson’s last release as he is stopping being a commercial musician. If this is to be the case, it’s an unfortunate situation, but it also adds an extra bit of meaning to the album which is a great work to go out on. Possibly the title is a hint itself as Hooson himself as referred to being “felled, but indestructible”. Also the titles refer to feelings like “Aiseki (哀惜)”  aka “Grief” , “Kyōshū (郷愁)” aka “Nostalgia”, “How Scared I Am To Live” and “Safe With Your Arms”. Hopefully everything is OK with Hooson and he will return at some form to music. 

“The Indestructibility Of The Already Felled” is available from January 31 on Lp and Digital.

 

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