Fazer : Plex

Fazer Plex review

In 2019, after the release of their second LP, Nadi, Fazer bassist and founding member Martin Brugger hit on what he saw as the band’s ethos: “We as a band act like a shoal of fish. Because they move in one body, but they are still many individuals. … Everyone plays, and the group becomes that body that moves in whatever direction the single parts take it.”

Fittingly, the band named Nadi after a Sanskrit word meaning “thread” or “channel” through which vital energy moves. In a similar vein, their latest LP, Plex, draws its title from the Latin verb plectere, meaning “to weave, braid or twine.” On one level this makes sense: like its predecessor, Plex is a finely wrought braid of timbres and rhythms. The German quintet has consistently used jazz as a jumping-off point for instrumental compositions unbound from any particular style or culture. All five band members are working musicians with wide palettes, which comes through in the way they play together on the record. Can-like grooves and the funk shadings of Fela Kuti bleed through without compromising the minimal, focused aesthetic.

On the other hand, Plex has an organic quality that feels less deliberate. Though Brugger’s electric bass and Simon Popp and Sebastian Wolfgruber’s interlocking drums gently hurry things along, Matthias Lyndermayr’s trumpet meanders in the mid-range while Paul Brändle’s guitar accents the empty spaces, with regular detours. Everything seems to coagulate in real time. All 11 of these songs are fully-formed and cohesive, but any given instrumental part, isolated, could underpin something completely new.

But Plex shows no interest in indulgence on the part of the band. Unlike many of their influences who deal in loose, long improvisation, Fazer delivers pop-length nuggets here. Only one song (the slow-burning “Cuentro”) cracks the six-minute mark—most make their point in three or four. The short songs tour a wide range of moods—the noirish shuffle of “Grenadier,” “Thea”‘s involuted melancholy, “Dezember”’s shimmering calm, the nervous breakdown on “Jaculysses.” But a stately strain runs through Plex, a commitment to solid construction within each song. When asked to describe the new record, the band answered they’d “traded youthful excitement for elegance.” If that trade comes at the cost of some emotional punch, so be it.

That’s not to say the album is sterile or lifeless. “Mature” is more like it—Plex is the sound of five musicians fully in sync with each other and confident in the toolkit they’ve already refined in their (still very young) career. It’s less an exploration than a statement of purpose. There’s plenty more wanderlust to be found in their live performances, which typically feature dextrous reworkings of studio songs that sound nothing like their counterparts on record. Here, though, the band adopts a restrained focus on structure, teasing the idea that it could all lose its shape at any given moment. But it’s only a tease—at no point does any band member stray too far from the edifice they create together. The whiff of a possible breakdown, that gentle tension, makes Plex all the more invigorating.


Label: City Slang

Year: 2022


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