3 Suits & a Violin is the result of two days of recording at Radio Studio Zürich in 2002 by a quintet led by double bassist and composer Christian Weber. The other members are Hans Koch (bass clarinet, saxophones, electronics), Michael Moser (cello), Martin Siewert (guitar, lap steel, electronics) and Christian Wolfarth (drums). This music swallows its influences with elegant nonchalance and spits them out with imperious intelligence; the results are as vivid, pungent and up-to-the-minute as any EAI milestone in recent years.
The opening track, “Pony Music”, is a study in the management of unconventional harmonic directions, an allegorical war of attrition between sheer noise and more refined forms of discordance. “Sun Perspectives” begins with scrape-and-hit strings, irregular electronic patterns and a guitar (?) loop; Weber’s fingerbombs and fragmented oscillations eventually yield to an underworld of groans, tweets and drones, in one of the disc’s most vehemently dramatic moments. On “Buzz Aldrin” squealing cymbals and roaring arco bass occupy opposite ends of the spectrum but soon enter into a nervous cohesion, amidst ululating cello whistles and an electronic guerilla war, the whole ending with cavernous bass notes tolling like a funeral bell. “Camping Light Night” breathes with anxious rasps and exhalations, a burrow of invisible fears and impenetrable proximities which can only be heard by putting the ear to the ground. It’s a genuinely mysterious entity, its strained percussive logic and thin-skinned reed/string conflict pushing beyond the reach of descriptive language. “Frogmouth”, the longest track at over 15 minutes, is launched by pricking highs from cello (?) and sax, which are soon opposed by shadowy bass and guitar outbursts. After a tightly controlled first half, a snarling low-frequency creature emerges from its soiled chrysalis for a few unnerving moments, to be replaced by a stunning cluster of electronic rumbles; the looping background of unintelligible voices leaves the final word to a string of underwater firecrackers and spellbinding cymbal repetitions. The album closes with “Lone Star”, where strings and weak reeds hesitantly disturb a desolate landscape of timbral deterioration, which neither Siewert’s volume swells nor Koch’s chirping clarinet can turn into a sunny morning. It’s an unhappy ending that works deep into the psyche, leaving us confined in a tiny room of buried autism, naked and full of doubts. After Polwechsel’s splendid Archives of the North, HatOLOGY has served yet another ace: 3 Suits is one of the best releases of 2006, and comes very highly recommended.