Trio lock horns in this clever electric sensation


Intelligent, intriguing and utterly uplifting, Schnellertollermeier's music is sparking across Europe.

Debra Richards - 2018-01-11
Trio lock horns in this clever electric sensation - Schnellertollermeier ©Jean-Marc Guétat
Schnellertollermeier ©Jean-Marc Guétat
Trio lock horns in this clever electric sensation - David Meier @Jean-Marc Guétat
David Meier @Jean-Marc Guétat
Trio lock horns in this clever electric sensation - Manuel Troller ©Roshni Gorur
Manuel Troller ©Roshni Gorur

It's bold music

I'm supposed to be reviewing this album but instead I'll take you to March 2016, and a small art space across the river from the Houses of Parliament in London. Called Iklectik, it's a white, basic room. No stage or fancy lighting, the seats are school benches and chairs. A band called Schnellertollermeier were playing. I dragged myself there as I'd once interviewed guitarist Manuel Troller and it had turned into one of those magic chats where you lose yourself in a whirl of ideas about music. Bright and open, he spoke of the challenge to make a guitar trio sound like something else.

Now, being able to look at this new release Rights, then back to X (2015) and (this is the interesting bit) to Zorn... (2010), you can hear how they succeeded. The interplay between David Meier (drums), Andi Schnellmann (bass) and Troller has gone from the familiar into a unique, intense dimension – as if three beasts are locking horns, pushing and pulling with moments of each leading the charge. It's bold music.


This gig made fans of the audience

Back to the 2016 gig, I sat, but not still, early in their set my body was moving. Clever repetitions, audacious afro beats and hikes in tension were somehow re-charging me. The tighter the chains of notes and rhythms they created, the more free I felt, the stronger the waves of energy. I was struggling to contain myself – embarrassing in such a small setting, but there were other people getting it too. One of them was Tony Dudley-Evans (director of the Cheltenham Jazz Festival who deservedly won the UK's Parliamentary Jazz Award for services to jazz in October) and we swapped enthusiasms for the band. I described them as less of a trio, more a chemical reaction.

You never know where small gigs will lead. Tony booked them for Cheltenham this year and they got super reactions from the Guardian amongst others. I travelled to Lucerne to hear them  workshop their ideas for the album Rights and when they played the EFG London Jazz Festival last month, not only did I go but got myself working on their merchandise table. I abandoned this job to dance because, as I mentioned, I can't keep still to their sound, but neither could others, much to my delight. This gig made fans of the audience, I know because I spoke to them.


Intelligent, intriguing, fun

Repetition in music has always been a pull for me. UK composer, Thomas Adès said, “If you play one note twice, it’s going to have different implications, because you will have been altered by the first one.” There's a physicality to repetition, almost like continuously rubbing two sticks together in the exact same way, you'll get a hot ember. In music it's when I can escape 'brain processing'. I remember DJ Louis Vega dropping Plastic Dreams by Jay Dee at about 4am at a club night, a repetitive track with small changes and a sexy build up. I literally danced myself into the sky (or so it felt).

Wikipedia writes that repetitive music genres include minimalist, krautrock, disco, house, some techno, some of Igor Stravinsky's compositions, dark ambient and black metal – a pretty good description of Schnellertollermeier. I'm not going to put their music into more words - buy the album and listen to it loud - is the short version of this review, and go to hear them live. Intelligent, intriguing, fun and utterly uplifting, don't underestimate how such music can positively change the world we live in.


Schnellertollermeier, Rights (Cuneiform Records)