Anton Eger ‘Æ’ LP/CD (Edition) 4/5

Best known as drummer with the trio Phronesis, this is Anton Eger’s intriguing debut as band leader. It’s one of those albums that is practically unclassifiable, laden with supercharged electronica, strange beats, awkward rhythms and a uniquely novel approach to making music. The quirky track titles, the codas at the end of each tune and the fiercely uncompromising nature of the music make it one of the most interesting releases so far this year.

Somehow, almost despite himself, Eger has pulled off something very compelling here. The heavy reliance on synths and electronics make me think of a dystopian man versus machine novella. The theme tune for Alfred Bester’s ‘The Demolished Man’, William Gibson’s “Neuromancer”, or perhaps any number of 50s sci-fi ‘b movies’. It’s like the music has been fed into a machine, one where technology goes dangerously wrong, and is then spat out as something strange and new. The once logical melodies that made musical sense now become oddly enchanted and yet strangely emaciated, entering a new era where visionaries can either be hailed as Gods or gangsters.

The headliner may well be Eger himself, but he is indebted to a very well cast band of contributors. With Matt Calvert on guitar, live drum processing, electronics and synths, Dan Nicholls on keys, synths, Wurlitzer, and Robin Mullarkey on electric bass and synths, Eger has an innovative crew alongside him. The album also features appearances from Ivo Neame, Petter Eldh, Niels Broos, Matthias Heise, Otis Sandsjö, Christian Lillinger and Juliette Marland.

There’s an incredibly eclectic mix of influences one could point to, but essentially “Æ” is Anton Eger forging an identity, or rather, multiple identities. In a similar way to last year’s “Blow” by saxophonist Donny McCaslin, a few of the tracks take the listener into art-pop territory. The deliciously infectious “Sugaruzd” and the quasi-funk-broken-grooves of “datn” paint half a picture whilst the powerful and mesmerising “Monolith” completes the whole picture in blazing technicolour. “Oxford Supernova” is like a Zero7 tune on acid, with its cool groove and luminous vibe preceding its reggae-funktronica coda. “Never Not” is a subversive, anthemic “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”. The beautifully dark and mysterious “Severn B” juxtaposes tight beats with esoteric synth hooks, “IOEDWLTO” is luscious and smooth before it turns into an 80’s pop classic, and if we fast forward to the 24th century where Weather Report are revered as long-forgotten gods, someone would be playing “HERb” as their latest reincarnation.

There are multi levels in Anton Eger’s multiverse. “Æ” is a journey that every inquisitive listener should take. Some may find the journey uncomfortable, some will find it unpalatable, but some will find it awe-inspiring and incredibly rewarding. Unconventional as it may be, we need music like this.

Anton Eger Launches Æ at Jazz Cafe, London on 30th April.

Mike Gates