THE WIRE 210 - 08/01


Steamboat Switzerland are a Hammond organ trio, a post-rock Medeski, Martin & Wood. Organist Dominik Blum also plays electronics and Marino Pliakas plays "e-bass and electronics" (though Lucas Niggli's drums are untreated). They've done a host of festivals and tours and been placed in top tens in several magazines. The covers sport modishly indecipherable photographs plus lettering that looks like the countdown display on a nuclear device.
Budapest begins promissingly. Niggli's drums are rattlingly present and the electronics are glitch-rich and jagged. However, this is just a tasty opener engineered by Stephan Wittwer. The rest is s live concert, and the sonic spectrum is restricted, a suite of industrial clangs and scrapes sugared with spooky chords. The trio seem content to paint lax evocations, lacking the Improv skills to question each other's reliance on mere effect (the desolate station bell, like something in a Wenders movie, etc.).
AC/DB[hayden] lets in some "proper" music, indicating that the previous outing was indeed noise impressionism rather than enlightened post-Qxley syntax. Ye Old Fusion emerges from the fuzz, bringing with it grim memories of Emwerson, Lake & Palmer. Again, the sonic spectrum is pinched and grey, the sound sound of improvisors trapped in an earnest style. The gruesomely predictable cyber thesis of the sleevenotes is sadly appropriate. Ever since Radiohead began the rehabilitation of Pink Floyd, the prospect of an era of false musical consciousness beckoned. Steamboat Switzerland are its soundtrack.
Ben Watson
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