Jonas Westergaard / Christopher Dell / Christian Lillinger

July 13, 2021


Plaist Music 009



Intakt CD 353

Confirming once again his cooperative skill as a band member and contributing composer is drummer Christian Lillinger. Busy with many of his own bands, the Berlin-based percussionist is also a crucial cornerstone of these trios. Both discs, which ironically feature the same number of tracks, couldn’t be more different in concept and execution. Lillinger has been playing with German vibraphonist Christopher Dell and Danish bassist Jonas Westergaard for years and Beats showcases “Configuration”, a 13-part instant composition. Somit in contrast divides the compositional input among the trio members: Lillinger, Slovenian Kaja Draksler coaxing unique tones from an upright piano and Swedish bassist Petter Eldh.

A musical palimpsest of Anton Webern’s “Six Bagatelles”, only one brief track on Beats reproduces a well-modulated extension of the melody. The object of the other sequences is how the trio uses adumbrations of the root material to create an original thesis. Setting up the program with patterns vibrated through drum ruffs, double bass shakes and concise vibe-mallet strokes, references to the theme are expressed throughout. During the introductory sections it’s expressed in broad and lean motifs, reaching a resolution of sorts with “Configuration VII”. Then Westergaard’s connective string throbs fragment into sul tasto stabs that become as prominent as Dell’s supple multi-mallet framing and Lillinger’s cranking cymbal pitter patter. While higher-pitched echoes and post-production electronic whooshes lead to narrative separation throughout the next few tracks, melody is retained through vibe affiliations. Double bass pulses and drum echoes thicken the output so that by “Configuration XI” even the briefest motifs propel a near-hypnotic effect. Following the Webern interpolation the concluding “Configuration XIII” climaxes with presto pops and echoes extending a harder and heavier metallic crunch that is added to the responsive creation.

Webern-improv creations are replaced by individual musical visions on Punkt.Vrt.Plastik. Interestingly enough it’s Eldh’s composition which provide the most variety. “Natt Raum” is a jerky, jokey line that could be a kids’ ditty, and is based on stretched vibrations from Draksler and Lillinger’s rim shots. Meanwhile “Morgon Morfin” is a moderated, almost mainstream ballad which slides along with multi-fingered affirmations and careful cascades from the pianist plus the composer’s string pops and slides. Draksler’s compositions are more elaborate. “Trboje” for example is a piano-centric stop-time excursion into varied time signatures and pitch and timbre changes that recaps the introduction over the bassist’s fluid pulse. “Fraustadt” concentrates on the piano’s highest register, with the discursive feints and key clipping elaborations kept on track with a sustained double-bass throb. Consciously experimental, “Vrvica”, featuring Lillinger on second piano, concentrates on the percussive pops available from stopped keys. For his part the drummer’s compositions make full use of the piano’s multiple identities as a melodic and percussive instrument. “Axon’ for instance advances a linear keyboard exposition with Monkish detours into between note explorations and is cut off abruptly like many others of the CD’s other tracks. In contrast “Amnion” is crammed with stopped key vibrations and a build up of echoing pressure. The release leads to supple theme variations including pedal pumps from Draksler as well as ringing key clips.

With narratives bouncing along chromatically as well as thrust to explosive allegro development with drum smacks, Lillinger and the other two improvise with the same freedom afforded to the trio on the other disc. Yet the interpretations offer contrary variants of contemporary free music. Each is a testament to the continue creativity of all five players – especially Lillinger.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Beats: 1. Configuration I 2. Configuration II 3. Configuration III 4. Configuration IV 5. Configuration V 6. Configuration VI 7. Configuration VII 8. Configuration VIII 9. Configuration IX 10. Configuration X 11. Configuration XI 12. Configuration XII 13. Configuration XIII

Personnel: Beats: Christopher Dell (vibraphone); Jonas Westergaard (bass) and Christian Lillinger (drums)

Track Listing: Somit: 1. Helix GA 2. If Asked 3. Membran 4. Natt Raum 5. Amnion 6. Morgon Morfin 7. Fraustadt 8. Somit 9. Axon 10. Enbert Amok 11. Trboje 12. Ribosome 13. Vrvica#

Personnel: Somit: Kaja Draksler (upright piano); Petter Eldh (bass) and Christian Lillinger (drums and piano #)