divr: Is This Water

Swiss piano trio following 'multi-directional time' can at first sound dense and chaotic but is at any rate deeply conversational

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Some 20 years ago I reviewed an album called Danses Parallèles by French improvising pianist Gaël Mevel. I remain fascinated to this day by the way in which the members of the trio seemed to simultaneously connect and operate in isolation. But Mevel’s composerly hand always seemed to anticipate just when their individual paths would elide, and the music had an unlikely cohesion.

Fast forward two decades and Zurich-based trio divr follow a broadly similar path, albeit one in which asynchronous rhythms (rather than harmonies) are central. Playing freely in what they describe as “multi-directional time”, they spin repetitive patterns around a central axis and never quite occupy the same plane. It initially sounds dense and chaotic but once the ears have attuned it quickly becomes apparent that the trio’s free-flowing improvisations are deeply conversational.

While it might be a stretch to describe such narrowly focused music as cinematic, the trio certainly knows how to develop and sustain a mood. The music here was enhanced by the brilliant post-production of Dan Nicholls, who layered selected field recordings and textural elements into the trio’s otherwise acoustic soundscapes.

Standouts include the opening As Of Now, where the musicians circle around Eden’s static chordal patterns to dramatic effect; the trio’s slow movement towards a crushing crescendo on the ballad All I Need; and the fractured romanticism of Tea High. Nicholl’s icy ambient sounds lend a particular kind of charm to VHS Tomorrow and Echo’s Answer, while Supreme Sweetness sees the trio toying with the melody of Sweet And Lovely, a familiar reference point amidst the growing turbulence.

Those suffering with piano trio fatigue should find the perfect antidote in divr’s intelligent and strangely swinging music, quietly radical in its own way.


Discography
As Of Now: Upeshka; Supreme Sweetness; 42; VHS Tomorrow; Tea High; All I Need; Echo’s Answer; A Glass Is No Glass Is A Glass (39.45)
Philipp Eden (p); Raphael Walser (b); Jonas Ruther (d). Bern, 2-5 February 2022.
WeJazz Records WJLP/CD 060