The Berlin-based quartet Philm – leader-composer-tenor sax player Philipp Gropper, Austrian Elias Stemeseder on piano and synthesizer, drummer Oliver Steidle and newcomer to the quartet, double bass player Robert Landfermann – earned the reputation as the «David Bowie of Jazz». The fifth album of Philm, «Consequences», solidifies this loaded reputation as the politically-informed compositions capture the troubled zeitgeist of our time and bursts forth with unexpected intensity and consequence.
Gropper’s focuses on themes of responsibility and the resulting consequences. In interpersonal terms, he is concerned with our behavior in relation to the other and within the social framework. Philosophically, questions of larger interrelationships bother Gropper. And politically, he is concerned about his own status as privileged citizen of this planet, the damaging effects of neo-liberal society, the destructive role of the West towards the Eastern and Southern hemispheres and the resultant conflicts and responsibilities.
These complex themes and topics are used by Gropper and Philm as instruments to push and redefine the jazz language by introducing provocative ideas from electronic music, hip hop, contemporary music and the classical music of Africa and India. The classic jazz line-up of this quartet often enjoys the urgent escape «into the unpredictable, dark corners of improvisation» while sketching detailed textures that are surprisingly intimate, passionate and communicative.
The opening «32 Cents» succeeds to suggest a compassionate, lyrical atmosphere despite its often schizophrenic, fractured flow that sounds as translating electronics-based soundscape into an acoustic interplay. The title-piece deepens Philm’s conviction to explore uncharted terrains where even the ground shakes and never stands still, but in a highly coordinated and methodical sonic maneuvers that only emphasize the strong personal voices of the quartet. «Saturn» do not sound at all as close to Sun Ra space kingdom but offers an intriguing and urgent conversational interplay. «Forgiving» introduces strong emotional and less strict undercurrents to Philm’s cerebral, well-crafted architecture of sounds, especially when Gropper or Stemeseder take the lead. The last «Thinking from the Future (Are You Privileged?)» again sounds as transforming an experimental, electronic hip hop beat into playful, but repetitive and tight rhythmic layers that methodically expand and gain more power.
Philipp Gropper (ts), Elias Stemeseder (p, synth), Robert Landfermann (b), Oliver Steidle (dr)