Edi Flaneur
Loewenhertz 008

Something must be going on in Vienna that’s comparatively unique.

If composer/keyboardist Hannes Löschell can write that the tunes for this CD project “illustrate the flair of the suburbs … an ideal place to go looking for adventures”, the outlying districts of the Austrian capital must be unlike any others.

EDI FLANEUR may have been created to attract kids, with its main character a tween skateboarder who appears as a live video installation when it’s performed in concert. But it will take a lot to persuade non-Austrians that anything adventurous happens in the suburbs when you’re older than 11. Maybe the visuals help. But on strictly aural evidence, this pastiche of chamber music, samples, songs, collages and ballads comes across as a decidedly lightweight entry from Löschell. That’s unfortunate, because elsewhere his mixture of improvisation, straightahead jazz and electronica has produced CDs of great promise.

You can’t fault the crew. The pianist has been leading a variety of bands since the early 1990s and played everything from pure improv to works by John Cage. Many of the projects, especially his trios feature drummer Paul Skrepek, who has also played with the Ton.Art ensemble. A new partner, violinist Joanna Lewis was concertmaster of the Austrian Youth Orchestra and plays with the Austrian Radio Symphony Orchestra as well as in the improv ensembles of saxophonist Max Nagl. General utility man Wolfgang Vincenz Wizlsperger, who has also worked with Nagl, the Kollegium Kalksburg (!) and Franz Franz & The Melody Boys (!!) along with Skrepek, here struts his stuff on double bass, children’s guitar, tuba, trombone, vocals, voice and tape.

Sounds from his tapes and Löschell’s samples again may help define the project when played live. Yet on the disc, outside of some scene-setting hullabaloo arising from skateboards wheels sliding on asphalt, the pre-recorded sounds are often distracting. This combination of nonspecific noises, childish screams, toy piano chords and voices singing or reciting nursery rhymes add more ambient clamor that detracts from the music.

Maybe that isn’t such a bad thing in some cases, however. “Borderline Song”, for instance, seems to be a straight pop song buoyed along by heavy ProgRock guitar licks, with simplistic English lyrics sung in a parodistic early rock Sha Na Na style. Zappaesque, it also goes on a little too long. “Echo am Silbersee”, another song — with German lyrics this time — adds some Hawaiian-style guitar chords. Other pieces range from the suggestions of Mittle European society orchestra music to some piano-directed rockballads, with Lewis’ serious violin training exhibited at its most elemental. Although some tunes may be fattened up with samples of semi-classical music, cheesy effects from toy instruments mitigate against that effect.

More impressive is “Straßenbahn”, where the toy piano rhythm and children’s guitar fuzztones presage triple stopping fiddle licks that at one point threaten to turn into “New York, New York”. “Insel” features (sampled?) roller rink organ backing allegro timbres from the piano after Wizlsperger on tuba has produced the proper timbres for an oomph pah pah band. With three voices harmonizing, “Grillpolka” is sort of a vaudeville polka, enlivened by speedy, lyrical fiddling. But the delivery is such that it seems to relate more to Yiddish vaudeville than Bohemian dances.

As a matter of fact, the instrumental piece that seems to say the most is the penultimate one. “Brother” is admirable Euro classical/jazz, with a relaxed bassist and drummer providing enough rhythmic impetus behind reappearing motifs, two-handed piano tremolos and enough space for Löschel to dig deep into the bass clef. Lewis provides full-force into soaring violin lines as well, but the composition itself sounds like it came from another CD — or should migrate there.

Löschel has provided ample evidence of his talent elsewhere and appended to an audiovisual presentation EDI FLANEUR may seem better. Right now, though, waiting for the pianist’s next CD may be the best plan of all.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. 4 facher Ollie 2. Verschub 3. Straßenbahn 4. Velvet 5. Echo am Silbersee 6. Wallet 7. Borderline Song 8. Pocket 9. Insel 10. Grillpolka 11. Brother 12. 3 Europäer ertrinken (Kantonesisches Kinderlied*)

Personnel: Joanna Lewis (violin); Hannes Löschel (piano, toy piano, synthsizer, melodica, whistle, samples, background vocals); Wolfgang Vincenz Wizlsperger (bass, children’s guitar, tuba, trombone, vocals, voice, tape); Paul Skrepek (drums, vocals); Eleane Marreiter (voice)