To introduce Arthur Hnatek as a jazz drummer only skits across the surface of the soundscape he works within. Sure he has drummed in units led by Tigran Hamasayan and Eric Truffaz but primarily Hnatek’s own musical explorations lead him closer to destinations where electronica and acoustic generated rhythms cross paths.
He’s been releasing music mapping out this journey for over a decade now, continually finding new routes and discoveries with impressive regularity. A prolific stream of pulsating club informed, glitch beat EPs have sprung from Hnatek’s studio since his exploratory ‘SWIMS‘ album in 2020, bringing awards, muso attention and Tom Ravenscroft fandom.
Amongst all this hyper creativity, the more jazz leaning Arthur Hnatek Trio last year released their ‘Static’ album on the esteemed Whirlwind Recordings. Well that’s jazz leaning in terms the interplay between Hnatek’s drums, Fabien Iannone’s bass and Francesco Geminiani’s sax forming the vibrant outsource. Plus there was swing and there was improv but equally upfront was the music’s hard wired connection to a Warp Records sensibility.
Now comes the second offering from the trio ‘Apnea’ released via Bridge The Gap. Recorded in the wake of touring ‘Static’ this is much more than an afterthought or tidy up effort following the main event. ‘Apnea’ sees the trio once again working within the confluence of machine music and the human touch but this time around trusting the wonders of a Buchla synthesiser to take a lead. As Hnatek explains “For most of the EP, we actually started by letting a Buchla instrument improvise a pattern for us, a melody, a structure and we would then learn it, arrange it and move it to our acoustic instruments.”
The results of this electro-acoustic collab with woozy West-coast synthesis are, as the release’s title hints, breath-taking. Those respiration levels certainly ratchet upwards with the hyper-kinetic opener Pulser, a tune driven by the rapid chatter of staccato sax and urgent coded beats before arcing sneakily into a fast forward bossa. The IDM referencing here is never far away but there’s more of an edge and daring being played out by this trio, a ‘go for it’ free flow with echoes of those punk-jazz pioneers Acoustic Ladyland.
The EP’s title track expands on this dynamic intent. Germiniani’s flighty sax pattern sets the zippy tone, gearing up for an assertive math-rock statement that cuts and thrusts with a Battles-like agility. What’s equally impressive is the focus and cohesion that hold the composition in place. Apnea as a track follows a narrative curve that despite all the angles and tangents curls back through familiar themes. It’s a tune that sets off at pace and satisfyingly reaches its destination rather than burning itself out.
The reflective Uncertainty sees the bridge between tension and resolution drawn even more soothingly with a gorgeous graceful momentum. The pattering rhythm and tune-focused sax lines trace out a song that tip toes nimbly between the nu-jazz switch back and a club anthem big drop. Its an act of restraint that really works.
Throughout all this activity the shimmering presence of Buchla toned electronics ghost around the trio’s soundscapes. They suspend an ethereal atmosphere around the scene-shifting And Associates as it snakes from a regal melodic calm to a place of eerie darker practices. Here Iannone’s elastic bass pulls and Hnatek’s fine percussive details add other intense dimensions to the listen. The Buchla conundrum also inspires the experimental dystopian soundtrack of Stored Program Sound Source where the trio’s pump of broken beats crank up like some archaic pre-digital machine.
In many ways ‘Apnea’ is a collection of tunes that does leave you breathless through its packed imaginative agenda but its managed so seamlessly by the band that it’s an experience you’ll want to re-run. There’s an EST-like connectivity fizzing through this trio and that’s something you don’t come across everyday.
Get your copy of ‘Apnea‘ by the Arthur Hnatek Trio direct from HERE