Monika Roscher

(Copyright © 2023 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of Use )
Failure in Wonderland (2012), 6.5/10
Of Monsters and Birds (2016), 7/10
Witchy Activities and the Maple Death (2023), 5/10

German composer, guitarist and vocalist Monika Roscher (1984), a composer of chamber music (including for a string quartet, a dulcimer ensemble, orchestra and choir) and of theater music, formed the Monika Roscher Bigband, first documented on Failure in Wonderland (2012). Failure in Wonderland jumps from prog-rock to minimalist repetition and to free jazz, sounds like a collaboration between Art Bears, Michael Nyman and the Art Ensemble Of Chicago. Irrlicht is modeled after Frank Zappa's orchestral works and Nucleus (Matthias Lindermayr on trumpet, Jakob Grimm on bass trombone). The ten-minute Wueste, another big-band excursion, fuses military and folk motifs (propelled by Max Weber's trombone) with cheerful jazz solos (Jan Kiesewetter on soprano sax). The funeral fanfare of the nine-minute Schnee aus Venedig is interrupted by saxophone vanity (Kiesewetter and Julian Schunter plus Andreas Unterreiner's and Johannes Schneider's trumpets and Michael Raum's trombone) and by a virulent piano solo (Josef Ressle). The nine-minute When I Fall in Love is a swinging dance that turns into a Mexican-tinged fanfare and then leaves room for Roscher's guitar solo and Heiko Giering's baritone saxophone solo. The collective horn dances also feature Roman Sladek on bass trombone, Jasmin Gundermann on tenor saxophone, and Felix Jechlinger on flugelhorn.

Roughly the same ensemble shows up on Of Monsters and Birds (2016) but she sings a more, starting with the bedroom-pop of Wanderer and culminating with the intellectual cabaret skit New Ghosts Of The Century. The eight-minute A Walk In The Park By Night blends noir soundtrack, bebop jam and lounge ballad. The ten-minute Full Moon Theatre evokes the atmosphere of an expressionist cabaret with its Caribbean-tinged solos and a Kurt Weill-esque march that morphs into a grotesque cha-cha dance. The eight-minute Terror Tango sounds like an Harry Mancini-esque soundtrack for an intellectual cartoon. The eleven-minute Caribbean Delirium boasts perhaps the smoothest stylistic transitions (especially between solos) above the tropical undercurrent.

Witchy Activities and the Maple Death (2023) is less and less prog-rock The collective pulsation of drums, pizzicato strings and horns of the nine-minute 8 Prinzessinnen evoke a circus atmosphere, but that is disintegrated by the gargantuan saxophone solo and the convivial trombone solo. The seven-minute Creatures of Dawn plunges into a funny flamenco-tango hybrid dance, the other creative peak of the album. The 12-minute Witches Brew suite is made of six short movements that feel more like cabaret skits imitating or parodying popular genres, a rather mediocre idea. The vocals are a mixed blessing, and, in fact, no blessing at all: she is no Dagmar Krause, and her voice has a mediocre register and a bland timbre. A Taste of the Apocalypse is her stab at sounding like Bjork: long way to go.

(Copyright © 2023 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )