Arthur Hnatek Trio ‘Static’ LP/CD (Whirlwind Recordings) 4/5

‘Static’ is the new album from the Swiss-based collective, the Arthur Hnatek Trio, whose new album finds its home on the UK’s Whirlwind Recordings.

Arthur Hnatek’s penchant for using his music to both explore and challenge outer perceptions of what constitutes jazz today is garnering the drummer and producer a staggering reputation – and subsequent catalogue to match. Such are Hnatek’s qualities that the esteemed Whirlwind Recordings have managed to secure the relentlessly talented artist for the launch of his new trio project that masterfully builds upon the groundwork laid down through past releases.

Able to wear the proverbial hat of an electronica artist as effectively as an exponent of jazz, Hnatek’s efforts under the guise of the one-man-band outfit of SWIMS perfectly encapsulate his overall exploratory sensibilities. A mere ten seconds into Hnatek’s ‘101 Breeze’ YouTube video offers such a concise glimpse into the drummer’s indelible talents. With further production work and collaborations for Manu Delago, Tigran Hamasyan, Melismetiq, Verveine and Erik Truffaz, Hnatek’s assembled trio enthusiastically build upon his vision providing the perfect accompaniment for compositions that rely heavily upon elements of improvisation.

Italian saxophonist Francesco Geminiani, whose own album ‘Red Sky, Blue Water’ saw its release earlier this year as well, serves as a perfect addition to Hnatek’s trio – with Geminiani’s own perspectives on music having been developed through similar curiosities that have seen him perform across the world for a range of artists including Marta Sanchez and Motor City Drum Ensemble. The Trio is rounded out by Swiss upright bassist Fabien Iannone – a multi-instrumentalist equally fascinated within the possibilities and connections of electronic music with jazz who can cite collaborations thus far with artists including Argonauts Collective, Ben Street and Taïga.

With three such open-minded approaches to contemporary jazz compositions, ‘Static’ results in a scintillating sonic playground where bold and innovative ideas are attempted and expressed over the albums nine tracks. With eclectic dalliances in line with each of the trio’s affections for electronica and other expressive genres, a track like the eight-plus minutes of ‘Brew’ is presented as a journey within itself charged with emotion – a brilliant piece. Perhaps the distinction of the most personality-driven track however would fall to the penultimate number ‘Cinque’ – a gloriously off-kilter drum pattern screams of broken beat inspirations that would bring smiles to the faces of the genre’s own icons like Bugz in the Attic or Kaidi Tatham.

Repeated listens to ‘Static’ generate very cyclical assessments of the album where you question whether you’re listening to a jazz trio dabbling in electronica or an electronica trio dabbling in jazz. While the answer wouldn’t change anything at all in that the result is the same once the “play” button is pressed, you realise that your perception of the music changes as a result of that answer. ‘Static’ is a genuinely fascinating record that makes you relish artists that are taking such decisive steps in rephrasing the parameters and perceptions of jazz going forward.

A series of live performances are planned this autumn in Switzerland with Andrina Bollinger, Netherlands with SWIMS, France with Eric Truffaz Quartet, and two Stateside performances with Tigran Hamasyan, a diversity that clearly highlights Hnatek’s popularity and one we in the UK eagerly look forward to witnessing.

Imran Mirza