Our collective re-imagining of jazz continues apace with this new release from Paul Peuker, the third with his Peuker8 group. At first blush, it is tempting to compare this album to the recent efforts from Phillip Gropper, as they are both based in Germany and have internalized a wide breadth of influences. But Peuker has his own voice.
Peuker plays guitar, with Marius Moritz on piano, Mark Weschenfelder on sax and clarinet, Alina Gropper on violin, Filip Sommer on viola, Elisabeth Coudoux on cello, Eugen Rolnik on bass, Florian Lauer drums, and Konstantin Ingenpaß providing vocals on two tracks (that’s nine technically, but maybe we should not count Ingenpaß toward the Peuker8). While Radiance has a distinct guitar orientation, it is far from a Peuker showcase. Instead, his compositions exercise all instruments in a fashion that combines jazz, classical, and rock music. The occasional singing is rich and forceful, but not overbearing.
A prime example is Radiance II, which begins with a labyrinthine drum and bass theme that is rapidly joined by piano and then guitar and sax. Throughout, the tension builds as the strings accentuate this progression. Sax and guitar duel, each offering compelling solos which appear to be loosely improvised. While each individual instrument or section often plays something resembling a catchy tune, the overlapping and arranging thereof results in a surprisingly involved and complex composition. On the other hand, Framework I is a multiphonic piece with free improv sandwiched by prog rock influences. Onto the Wild Bright Future begins with jazz chording on the piano before it transmogrifies into a lilting theme that leads to a contrapuntal piano excursion.
Throughout Radiance, Peuker and company manage to push the boundaries of chamber rock by achieving a level of unpredictability and rawness that goes beyond that moniker. It this jazzy classical with rock influences or classically-influenced jazz with a strong guitar presence? What about the tracks that seem like ballads? Ultimately, it doesn’t matter – labels are irrelvant to this group. And that is a great thing.