AKKU Quintet with Manuel Pasquinelli: Kinema

On its fifth album the Swiss quintet takes its time in developing lugubrious, sparsely textured, mostly rock-driven cinematic soundscapes


Manuel Pasquinelli is still perhaps best known as the drummer with post-rock minimalists Sonar, but the AKKU Quintet has provided an outlet for his rhythmically complex and often atmospheric compositions for over a decade now. Kinema is the group’s fifth studio album, and given the music’s tense narratives and cinematic chiaroscuro, it could hardly be more aptly titled.

Belonging to the same Swiss minimalist school as Nik Bärtsch, Don Li and of course Sonar, AKKU produce music that is characterised by its tight rhythmic grids, mildly disorienting asymmetry and deceptive simplicity. Ischer’s edgy guitar and Gilsenan’s effects-driven sax provide heavy sonic counterweight to Nydegger‘s delicate piano motifs, while Schnellmann and Pasquinelii usually move in lockstep, their constantly shifting rhythmic cells creating a simultaneous sense of stasis and motion.

Opening track Zephyr pivots around a spare piano figure, and but for Ischer’s crescendo of distorted guitar and its heavier percussive attack we could almost be listening to Bärtsch’s Ronin. The title track moves into rockier terrain, another hypnotic ostinato providing an anchor in an ever changing backdrop of contrasting textures. Ischer’s guitar is particularly incendiary, and Schnellman’s cross-cutting riffs only add to the drama.

The three-part Ink is perhaps the most evocative of the four pieces. Constantly shifting pulses are enveloped by a sea of textural backwash, its barely concealed urgency never letting up. The short outro Morph opens with a very abstract passage of detuned bass and guitar before transitioning into an angular zen-funk groove. Departing almost as unexpectedly as it came, it caps another strong set from Pasquinelli’s brilliant group.

The digital download includes a shorter bonus version of the title track, and if you’re partial to this peculiarly Swiss movement I suggest you head straight to Bandcamp.

Zephyr; Kinema; Ink (Parts I-III); Morph (38.01)
Pasquinelli (d) with Michael Gilsenan (ts, effects); Maja Nydegger (p, kyb); Markus Ischer (elg); Andi Schnellmann (elb). Bellmund, Switzerland, 17-19 January 2021.
Morpheus Records MORPH017CD