Koch / Loriot / Kocher: Stranger Becoming

Demanding Swiss set contrasts abstraction, serialism and microtonalism with the human, tonal, folkish qualities of the accordion


Swiss multi-reeds player Hans Koch is nothing if not uncompromising. Starting his professional career in the mid-70s as a classical clarinettist, he quickly realised that jazz and its related idioms offered a more creative path. Perhaps best known for his work with turbo-charged power trio Koch-Schütz-Studer, his relentless pursuit of new sounds has led to collaborations with a stellar cast of improvising artists including Fred Frith, Cecil Taylor and Barry Guy.

This new trio first came together in the summer of 2020, and if Koch-Schütz-Studer put the “hardcore” into chamber music then Koch-Loriot-Kocher’s rather more hushed and occasionally austere brand of music is no less extreme. Theirs is a finely attenuated musical chemistry, and one which demands attentive listening.   

When not sparring with a range of extended techniques, Koch and Loriot tend to play in a broadly similar register while the rather more handmade, folkish timbres of Kocher’s accordion provide a reassuringly human counterbalance. It’s a highly effective juxtaposition, heard to good effect on the opening The Weight Of Magic where seemingly disconnected bows, scrapes and columns of air slowly cohere into recognisable phrases as Kocher gradually imposes a tonal centre.

The drone-based manoeuvres of All Told bring to mind Pauline Oliveros’s forays into improvised music, and as the piece unfolds the trio’s composerly instincts become increasingly thinly veiled. Relinquished Rifles enacts a considerably less ambiguous narrative, shifting from abrupt violence to blissful tranquility in a single arc. The very abstract Found Bodies flirts with Viennese serialism, A Fleeting Purchase exploits the small timbral tensions between the instruments to emit a spectral aura, while the broken melodic lines of the title track are shrouded in unsettling micro-tonal harmonies.

Stranger Becoming  is unapologetically demanding, but if you approach it with open ears and a clear head its charms will prove innumerable.

The Weight Of Magic; All Told; Relinquished Rifles; Found Bodies; A Fleeting Purchase; Stranger Becoming (37.44)
Hans Koch (cl); Frantz Loriot (vla); Jonas Kocher (acc). Kirche St. Maria, Ins, Switzerland, 25 February 2021. 
Neither/Nor Records n/n020 & Bruit Editions BR12