Press about Martin Küchen’s Angles 9′

Antonio Poscic (Free Jazz Collective) about Injuries 
It’s no secret that saxophonist and composer Martin Küchen and the various incarnations of his Angles group are quite beloved on the Free Jazz Blog. Not without reason since it can seem, at times, that Angles under Küchen’s guidance really are incapable of producing mediocre music. “Injuries” is another release by the Angles nonet, Angles 9, and the musicians and their music remain as wonderful as they’ve ever been.
Martin Küchen and his cohorts present us with big band music that frames grand and expansive moments within minimalist and quite improvisational borders. It is exhilarating, shiver-inducing music, but with a contemplative and spiritual thread passing through it. Imagine that: free, improvised music that you can almost hum and dance to! The record can feel so musical and uplifting at times that you’ll feel guilty for enjoying it so much. And yet, the music never even comes close to being corny or tacky. Instead, it successfully bridges intellectually challenging and emotionally fulfilling sonic dimensions. This is especially evident when the band is at full force, when an incredible energy and passion, a certain pathos almost, starts sweeping over the listener. A pathos that is easily associated with the message that lies in the background. A message that can be interpreted as a warning and a plea for peace, a message that is akin to the voice and ideas behind Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra. Simultaneously, African and Latino rhythms that lurk between the lines, the syncopated drumming, and blaring horn section might remind us of African musicians such as Mulatu Astatke. It all amounts to charged and powerful music, plain and simple.
(…)
John Ephland (AAJ) about Injuries 
What’s to love about this CD is the musicality that’s thrown into the maelstrom of styles and attitudes. You’ve got a hint of early, experimental jazz from the mid-60s with the opening number, “European Boogie” (think Bobby Hutcherson with Eric Dolphy or Archie Shepp, the vibes being paramount); that’s until they all start into a kind of Tower of Power incantation. From there, it’s a lot of well-mannered, outlandish rummaging, the nonet of Angles 9, led by saxophonist Martin Kuchen, and their “ Injuries” playing out across seven varied originals.
This music is a rarefied listen to those with a flair for the sound of instruments played well but also played with an eye and ear for semi-organized sound generally painted outside the lines. Injuries is both inside and outside. Angles 9 surprises in part because of the marvelous array of instrumentalists on board, vibraphonist Mattias Stahl a key voice but also Eirik Hegdal joining Kuchen on the rolling, rollicking almost-marching-band entreaty “Eti.” Other cast members who surface as vivid musical personalities include trombonist Mats Aleklint, cornetist Goran Kajfes and trumpeter Magnus Broo. Not a straggler among the bunch.
“A Desert on Fire, A Forest /I’ve Been Lied To” highlights the rhythm section, it’s trolling, ruminative cadences come to us almost like a death watch, lovely and mysterious, pianist Alexander Zethson, bassist Johan Berthling and drummer Andreas Werliin plodding along (with vibraphonist Stahl in tow) as the song gradually unfurls with the whole ensemble. It’s as if everyone is expressing what it feels like to be lied to.
Broken up into four sections, all arrangements are by the band; a band of merry-makers full of ideas, full of group empathy. Moods change from boisterous to somber, the unpredictability factor combined with top-notch musicianship the calling card.
Bird is the Worm about Injuries 
Saxophonist Martin Küchen keeps adding members to his Angles ensemble, and the music keeps getting better.  For those keeping score at home, the new releaseInjuries has the count at Angles 9, and, unsurprisingly, the music keeps getting more buoyant, more textured, and more fun.  The comparison often made is Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra, and that’s not an unfair parallel to draw, but where Haden’s outfit planted its roots in protest music, Kuchen’s outbursts are more celebratory in nature.
This is music that explodes with life and barely holds together at the seams.  “European Boogie” opens the album, with a Stahl intro on vibes that sees the ensemble launching into a catchy groove with a heavy foot and a light bounce.  “Ubabba” charts a similar course, except that where the ensemble still rides a catchy groove, it’s their partnership in harmony that carries the day.
This is music that tells a story, but with many voices at once and rarely in unison.  “Eti” and title-track “Injuries” both posses that euphoric excitement and energy of a roomful of people all celebrating the same thing in different conversational tones and tenors, sometimes at a murmur, sometimes with a roar.  In particular, the 22-minute epic “A Desert on Fire, A Forest / I’ve Been Lied To” runs through a series of chapters, each with their own plot twist.
But no matter what the story is or how it’s told, this music is supremely fun and wildly expressive, and the kind of joyful listening experience often hoped for, but not often received.  An outstanding album, and one of 2014’s best so far.

 

Vincenzo Roggero, AAJ, about Injuries (****1/2)
Provengono dalla Scandinavia—terra ostica, lande sconfinate, natura selvaggia, ghiaccio incombente (basta un’occhiata alle foto di copertina…)—ma scaldano anima e cuore come poche, pochissime, formazioni sono attualmente in grado di fare. Loro, ca va sans dire, sono gli Angles, qui alla prima documentazione in versione “nine” intitolata Injuries, fissata ancora su Clean Feed e disponibile nel doppio formato CD e long playing.
Se dal vivo la loro musica sembra trovare il canale espressivo più naturale e contagioso, in studio raggiunge toni che potremmo definire epici. Gli arrangiamenti valorizzano una potenza di “fuoco” invidiabile, attraverso una combustione lenta e inesorabile che porta il motore dell’ensemble al massimo dei giri nel rispetto di forme e proporzioni ben definite.
Il sassofonista e leader Martin Kuchen non si accontenta di fuoco e fiamme, di ritmi incendiari e atmosfere che sanno di ritualità sciamanica e di fanfare ayleriane. Così muove sulla scacchiera, con chirurgica precisione, le pedine del suo ensemble, creando situazioni inaspettate e insospettabili.
Flussi sonori rarefatti, ombrosi, quasi immobili, vengono squarciati dai traccianti luminosi dei fiati, la gentilezza del vibrafono, elemento chiave negli equilibri timbrico/dinamici delle formazione, si pone come stimolante interlocutore alle libere escursioni e ai toni gravi del pianoforte, il contrabbasso archettato evoca scenari austeri per niente convenzionali.
Insomma, quella proposta dagli Angles 9 è musica senza frontiere, dai forti contrasti, melodica e pesantemente ritmica, esplosiva ma anche dolce e commovente, ricca di riferimenti a formazioni storiche del jazz creativo ma unica nel modo di rielaborali e portarli al giusto grado di combustione attraverso un lessico del tutto originale. Semplicemente irresistibili.

 

De negenkoppige versie van Angles die in 2012 nog in Hasselt stond (een concert dat deels door Clean Feed werd uitgebracht als ‘In Our Midst‘), trok in 2013 ook nog de studio in om daar zijn vijfde album in te blikken. Het was de eerste keer dat het niet op een podium gebeurde. Niet dat het iets afdoet aan de impact van de muziek, want ‘Injuries’ is vermoedelijk de meest complete en uitbundige Angles totnogtoe.
Van de shock & awe-methode van de band is dan ook nog geen greintje verloren gegaan. Küchens paradepaardje is een ‘niets in de handen, niets in de mouwen’-machine, een denderende muziektrein, een negenkoppig balorkest dat recht op het hart mikt met grandioze thema’s, pompende ritmes en genoeg drama om een avond toptheater op te luisteren. Angles beschikt over finesse, mysterie en intelligentie, maar is bovenal een gulle band, eentje die regelmatig op het rempedaal gaat staan, maar vooral ook voluit gas durft geven. Voor zoutpilaren is zo’n bonkend hart misschien wat veel van het goede, de rest gaat voor de bijl.
Meer dan tevoren is de spirit van Afrika in de muziek geslopen. De Oost-Europese en Arabisch getinte referenties waren er al, maar de Afrikaanse drive, waar we in Hasselt al even van mochten proeven, legt een nog grotere nadruk op ritmische stuwing. Dat is meteen al dominant in opener ‘European Boogie’, dat na een vibrafoonintro en een daaruit opduikende drumaanzet uitpakt met een van de meest swingende thema’s uit de uit z’n voegen barstende Anglescatalogus. Kleurrijk samenspel, vitale power en vooral die organische schwung.
De muzikanten die Küchen omringen zijn stuk voor stuk kleppers die perfect omkunnen met technische hoogstandjes, maar de strakheid van Angles is er geen van de machinale metronoomperfectie, maar van de schuring. Dit is jazz met bakken soul, vloeiende timing en een wisselwerking waarbij muzikanten inpikken en verder bouwen op elkaars hints alsof er wordt gewerkt met doorgegeven atletenstokjes. Hier is geen plaats voor gladheid. En als dan eens de treurnis wordt opgezocht, zoals in ‘Eti’, dan is dat met de overtuiging van iemand die het klappen van de zweep kent. Composities bloeien open, vallen uit elkaar en pikken zichzelf op om nog sterker dan tevoren terug te keren.
Er zit ook een onwaarschijnlijke dynamiek in deze plaat. Voor elke minuut filmische grandeur krijg je ook een stuk bonkende, dansende wereldjazz. Zo’n ‘Ubabba’ werkt al net zo aanstekend als de muziek die The Ex opnam met Getatchew Mekuria, terwijl de denderende grandeur het titelnummer past als soundtrack bij de Spaanse burgeroorlog, vooraleer weer om te slaan in tumultueuze free jazz en een fantastische, ontroerende tweede helft, die geen mens onbewogen kan laten. Rauw, rafelig, fragiel, gekwetst, somber, dromerig en heroïsch in één. Al goed dat het afsluitende ‘Compartmentalization’ even een lichter geluid laat horen, anders zou je er nog een gebroken hart aan overhouden.
We maakten ons onlangs nog de bedenking dat de woede en de verontwaardiging eigenlijk al te veel naar het achterplan verschoven zijn binnen de jazz. Angles 9 zet dat alweer voor een stukje recht. De methode is bekend, het effect blijft even sterk. Dit is geëngageerde muziek van de gebalde vuist en het bloedend hart, intens persoonlijk en vertrouwend op collectieve macht. Het resultaat is voor de vijfde keer een prachtplaat, die de lat hoog legt voor wie dit jaar nog een statement te maken heeft.
(Guy Peters)
Dan Sorrells – Freejazzblog
“An Angles tune is designed to elevate musician and listener together to a shared, ecstatic plane. Foremost, it is a music of feeling.”
 _______
Guy Peters – Enola
“Dit is muziek die rechtstreeks op het hart mikt. Angles zien is een feest van de lach en de ontroering, nu voor de vierde keer vastgelegd op een prachtige liveplaat.”
 ____________
Koen van Meel – Kwadratuur
“De lp ‘In Our Midst’ laat horen hoe sterk Angles als band staat en hoe effectief de composities van Küchen zijn. Drie kwartier auditief verblindend positivisme, zonder enige goedkope hoeracultuur. Het sonore equivalent van Obama’s ‘Yes We Can’, maar dan met resultaatgarantie.”
__________________
Eddy Determeyer – Draai om je oren
“Een merkwaardig gezelschap, Angles 9”

 

Guy Peters, Enola.be – about concert Angles 9 at KC BELGIE, Hasselt, Oct 13, 2012

Na drie bejubelde live albums werd het hoog tijd dat Angles eens te horen was in België. De verwachtingen die door het recente By Way Of Deception gecreëerd werden, waren bijzonder hooggespannen, maar werden moeiteloos ingelost door een bende die speelde met plezier, gretigheid en een verpletterende energie. Als achteraf zelfs de hardnekkigste zoutpilaar in je omgeving toegeeft even van z’n melk te zijn, dan weet je genoeg. Dit was niet minder dan een triomf.
Ongelooflijk om te beseffen dat Angles nog maar zo weinig speelkansen gekregen heeft. Het is nochtans een band die zowel tegemoet kan komen aan de honger naar avontuur van de hardcore liefhebbers, als de nieuwsgierigheid van de meer toevallige luisteraar. De band werkt met opzwepende ritmes, meeslepende melodieën, majestueuze harmonieën en heeft vooral, en dat onderscheidt hen van veel vergelijkbare bands die in diezelfde vijver vissen, bakken soul en emotie in de aanbieding. De muziek van Angles, waarin invloeden uit de meest uiteenlopen uithoeken samengebracht worden tot een soms overrompelende combinatie, overtuigt zelfs de meest geharde scepticus. Dit concert was dan ook maar een stap in een groter verhaal dat nog gaat komen. (…)
Het is muziek die, zonder ooit goedkoop of plat te worden, recht op het hart afgaat en je moet dan ook een zielloze kwast zijn om dit niet te voelen. (…)
Het overwegende gevoel was dan ook dat deze band gewoonweg te veel in huis heeft om een snoepje van een handvol hardcore liefhebbers te blijven. Zet dit op eender welk jazzfestival, en organisatie en publiek worden eraan herinnerd wat muziek ook kan zijn: een spannend feest van uitbundigheid en kleur, een emotionele achtbaanrit, een stomp in de maag. Zo compleet komen ze zelden aan de meet. Angles is de te kloppen band van het moment.
English translation:
After three highly acclaimed  live albums it was high time that Angles performed in Belgium. The expectations that had been raised by the recent “By Way Of Deception” were high, but were easily met by a band who played with joy, eagerness and smashing energy. If afterwards even the most stubborn pillar of salt confessed to have been thrown off balance you know: this was no less then a triumph
It”s unbelievable to realize that Angles hasn’t gotten more chances to play up until now. It is a band that can both satisfy the hunger for adventure of hardcore music lovers, and the curiosity of the more haphazard listener. The band works with riled-up rhythms, moving melodies, majestic harmonies and, most of all, loads of soul and emotion. The music of Angles, bringing together very diverse influences into a at times overwhelming combination, convinces even the toughest skeptic. This concert was a mere step towards the bigger story that is to follow. (…)
This music goes straight to the heart, without ever being cheap or banal. One has to be a soulless klunk not too feel it. (…)
The overall feeling was that this band simply has too much to offer to stay the darling of a handful of hardcore music lovers. Put this at any jazz festival and organizers and audience alike will be reminded of what music can be: an exciting party of exaltation and color, an emotional roller coaster, a punch in the stomach. You don’t get them often as complete as this. Angles is the band of the moment that cannot be beaten
Enrico Bettinello, Blow Up Magazine , about Today Is Better Than Tomorrow:
Irriducibile a ogni classificazione, originalissimo e politico, fortemente immerso nella tradizione di ricerca, ma al tempo stesso portatore instancabile di un approccio ellittico alla creazione musicale, il sassofonista svedese Martin Küchen ha trovato nel progetto Angles uno dei suoi esiti più coinvolgenti.
In “By Way Of Deception” (…) la musica è un’esplosione di idee e colori. Tenendo come punto di riferimento la Liberation Music Orchestra di Charlie Haden, Küchen e soci esplorano con una visceralità contagiosa temi innervati di grande cantabilità come la title-track o la indimenticabile Today Is Better Than Tomorrow, per giungere al bellissimo affresco conclusivo di Don’t Ruin Me/Let’s Tear The Threads Of Trust. Musica collettiva e condivisiva, (…) capace di riaccendere con semplicità detonante la miccia di un jazz armato di violenta dolcezza. Fantastico!
Stef Gijssels, Free Jazz – about Epileptical West
*****
As you may read, I am excited. And more than just a little. This music gets you whole: soul, mind, heart and body.

If you buy only one album this year, buy this one! 

Enrico Bettinello, All About Jazz Italia – about Epileptical West
Gli Angles sono una delle band più emozionanti del jazz creativo di oggi. Politica, vibrante, libera, comunicativa! Se già il precedente Every Woman Is a Tree ci aveva colpito per la capacità di fare brillare di energie nuove un lessico condiviso come quello che deriva dalla grande stagione estatico-modale degli anni Sessanta, questo nuovo Epileptical West – registrato dal vivo a Coimbra – si candida senza dubbio a essere uno dei dischi dell’anno. (…)
Globale e incazzato, mai autoreferenziale e sempre consapevole, il jazz di oggi e di domani dovrebbe sempre essere come quello degli Angles.
Sergio Piccirilli, El Intruso – about Epileptical West
Calificación: A la marosca
En definitiva, Angles en Epileptical West – Live in Coimbra esclarece, comunica, emociona, inspira, compromete, convence e integra; y eso es muchísimo más de lo que otros están haciendo para que podamos vivir en un mundo mejor.
Jose Carlos Fernandes, Time Out Lisboa – about Epileptical West
*****
Küchen, Magnus Broo (trompete), Mats Aleklint (trombone), Mattias Stahl (vibrafone), Johan Berthling (contrabaixo) e Kjell Nordeson (bateria) passam facilmente do lamento à celebração, da fúria à hipnose. Podem soar tão densos como uma big band, mas o vibrafone introduz uma leveza extra-terrena. Em “Present Absentees/Pygmees” um trombone exuberante arrasta o grupo para uma dança jubilatória de sabor africano, o tema-título abre ao rubro, passa por contagiante groove rock e incendeia-se em fanfarras dementes, “En Svensk Brownie” tem riffs endemoninhados sobre vibrafone enfeitiçante e bateria metronómica, “Every Woman Is a Tree” (uma revisitação) é galvanizado por solos de sax e trompete de alta voltagem.
Glenn Astarita, Jazzreview – about Epileptical West
Producer and saxophonist Martin Kuchen professes jubilance and assists with generating a distinct group sound, teeming with abundant contrasts, riotous exchanges and climactic passages.
Angles is a unit that resides on the edge, yet underscores the hot and heavy episodes with a touch of modern mainstream.  Strong material and a deterministic mode of operations, yields the winning formula on this compelling effort.  Hence, it’s an exposition, teeming with raw firepower and finesse to complement the artists’ fusion of divergent angles into the grand schema.
Peter Margasak, Downbeat – about Every Woman is a Tree
With his new band Angles, Swedish reedist Martin Küchen struts some mean free-bop chops. Every Woman is a Tree (Clean Feed) **** is a wordless political protest against war, and specifically, the Iraqi occupation, but its muscular, post-Mingus propulsion embroiders big-boned melodies with so much style and energy that no back story is needed. His excellent band (trumpeter Magnus Broo, trombonist Mats Äleklint, vibraphonist Mattias Ståhl, bassist Johan Berthling, and drummer Kjell Nordeson) rides the six originals hard, and each improvisation meets the sextet’s raucous articulation head on.
Stef Gijssels, Free Jazz – about ‘Every Woman is a Tree’
Magic from Sweden, published in Portugal. (…) The band brings a strong anti-war album here, and an ode to women in war-time, the “trees” that hold the families together. The music has this unbelievable combination of energy, melodic beauty and emotional sensitivity. Some of the tracks are wonderful, and possibly among the best I’ve heard this year. (…) The music is rhythmic, melodic, with a clear structural approach of theme, improvisations and back to theme, although a little more sophisticated than I describe it. But compositional power is one thing, the major achievement is in the performance itself, which is warm, sad and wonderful. A great album.


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