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Tomas Sauter Tranceactivity

Highly intelligent statements outside the mainstream, which have what it takes to revolutionize the musical world.
Suite101.de/D 12.2010

An extraordinary musical journey. Exciting Basslines, fast Drumbeats, spherical Soundscapes and catchy lead guitars. Masterwork!!
Hörspiegel.de/D 12.2010

His guitar belongs to the hottest ones in the Swiss jazz and avantgarde scene.
Kulturtipp /CH 1.2011

Frugality and condensation
A guitar-bass-drum-trio is a setting that can musically denote everything from traditional jazz up to noise, ambient and more. The sound-massifs of the Swiss band Tomas Sauter Tranceactivity make you forget the actual orchestration very quickly.
Tomas Sauter’s trio dates back to his days at the Jazz University of Lucerne. The fact that he has been playing with the bassplayer Urban Lienert and the drummer Christoph Staudenmann for fifteen years is what makes the music of this band possible. Such complex music, with sound experiments, new forms and free improvisations could not happen without mutual confidence between the musicians. Especially not with this quality. The new record is entitled „Findling“, a title which is more than a manifesto, after all, a foundling is a single huge stone which was brought to its final destination by glacier movements. „The first release „Fluo“ (1998) was stylistically a lot wider than „Findling“, Sauter says. „The second CD „Flora“ was already more consequent in terms of the unique sound cosmos of the trio. Through the way In which the music Is conceived, the collective playing of the band is more important for the music than the individual performance of a soloist.
As opposed to a „normal“ guitar trio the use of effect devices and loops brings the special character to the sound of „Tranceactivity“.
„Tranceactivity“ is a typical creative band in which we have to rehearse and experiment a lot to get to a result like the record „Findling“, Sauter illustrates. „In order for a band like this to work, musicians who follow the process and who want to actively create the music are needed.“
Neither are technical demonstrations important to the guitarist in this musical conception, nor is standing in front of a rhythm section as a soloist. As the main composer he specifies the direction and usually, the tunes he brings into rehearsals end up sounding just the way he had imagined the would. „On the other hand it can happen that a tune doesn’t work and drops out of the repertory“, he mentions. „Usually I have a large stock of new compositions and a piece that wouldn’t work in one band could work very well in a different setting!“
The recording process – it’s hard to imagine considering the result – was a pretty quick one. In terms of the moods everything was set before the recording session but they experimented with different dynamics. „Findling is basically a live recording. The only thing we recorded as overdubs are very few percussion sounds“ Sauter explains. „All the orchestral sometimes confusing loops were recorded live at the studio during the performance of the trio.“
The array of sounds is impressive: there Is everything from a clean jazz guitar sound to noises which make it hard to be able to determine the instrument. „The spectrum of sounds is an important aspect for our music. In fact a guitar trio is a rather intimate lineup“ Sauter says „which by the use of loops can be concentrated to orchestral dimensions. Our music oscillates beetwen frugality and condensation.“
Tomas Sauter rightly calls his band a „sound laboratory“. The predominance of composition and form which is typical of jazz music is broken up. A single sound can become a guiding theme and establish a mood. Many of Sauter's compositions use modal harmonies or are atonal. To him it’s more important to build up an arc of suspense than to use harmonic cadences: „We go on musical journeys of discovery and we break with away from the usual aesthetic conventions. Therefore we have merged attributes from contemporary music and rock with jazz conceptions and happened to create a unique style.“
„I studied most of the jazz guitar players from Charlie Christian to Django Reinhardt, Jim Hall, John Abercrombie, with whom I studied, to contemporary classical composers. The Jimi Hendrix Experience and David Torn are the most Important influences for us. Hendrix is a role model to me for his mix between well structured and ecstatic parts. And there we, Urban and Christoph as rhythm freaks who like most complex beats and I pursue –- the same aim.“
Jazzthetik/D, 12.2010

A radical sound-monolith
It’s been nine years since Tomas Sauter released the last record with his project Tranceactivity. Now the new record „Findling“ is here but the long period since the last release doesn’t seem very long to the author. The bustling Swiss has lived in New York City in the meantime, released the sophisticated record „Indian Summer“ in duet with Daniel Schläppi as well as a quartet recording, accepted a lectureship at the music university of Bern, founded a label, „travelled through India by bicycle and became a father“. And these are only excerpts of the creative work of the guitarist and composer. Sauter's trio with the bass player Urban Lienert and the drummer Christoph Staudenmann is everything but a normal guitar trio, Tranceactivty is „a sound laboratory“, Sauter says. And in there it seethes tremendously: „The repertory reaches from trashy LoFi-grooves, to spaced out odd meter grooves to free jazz as far as to roaring distortion revelries“. There’s no way to describe more accurately what goes on in this trio. The musicians work with acoustic and electronic resources; they work with complexity and simplicity. Expressive and soft sounds, spherical and chaotic elements find their way into the concept of the band with a focus on atmospheric sounds. Sauter's guitar rig contributes a lot to this aspect since he uses effect devices like a „resonance filter, ring modulator, delay, whammy and bit crusher“ apart from a custom composed stereo setup with loop machines. Sauter uses those alternative sound possibilities with great awareness. „I composed most of the pieces and did a preproduction in my home studio to determine the sound design. For the record “Findling“ I experimented a lot with different sounds and grooves. Based on my sketches we developed versions that are well-suited to the band during countless rehearsals. On all previous CDs we also played compositions by Christoph Staudenmann. Besides we also like to play free improvisations which depict interesting moods and contrast with the composed material.“ Freely improvised or well rehearsed: Tranceactivity is a radical sound-monolith, which like a foundling, an erratic, wanders through wide dimensions.
Jazzthing/D, 2.2011

Sauter evaporates the music to the essentials – A most interesting guitar trio
Tomas Sauter Tranceactivity is not just another guitar trio, but a most interesting one which incorporates electronics, loops and alienations. In this way strange worlds which seem to be somehow familiar are created. The former Abercrombie student mainly bears the consistent interplay between guitar, bass and drums in mind – and not only shining dazzling effects. Some pieces appear like intros or short interludes and are reminiscent of movie soundtracks. Others come along like abstract musical images. Then trashy insertions follow. Sauter's sound team evaporates the music to the essentials.
CD rating: Very recommendable
Stereo/D, 02.2011

Impressive balancing act
His playing counts among the most thrilling in the Swiss jazz and avant-garde scene. And when Tomas Sauter touches the strings of his guitar half of Europe is listening. With his trio „Tranceactivity“ he ventures the balancing act that is heard in the name of the band. In exchange with the bass of Urban Lienert and Christoph Staudenmann’s drumming he zaps from avant-core to groove sounds, from contemplative ambient textures to exuberant excursions.
Highest CD Rating: five out of five stars
Frank von Niederhäusern, Kulturtipp /CH 1.2011

Highly intelligent statements outside the mainstream, which have what it takes to revolutionize the musical world.
Tomas Sauter’s electric band „Tranceactivity“ presents basic stuff on their new album „Findling“. The guitarist and composer Tomas Sauter with his bandmembers Urban Lienert on bass and Christoph Staudenmann are clearly looking for the meditative side and they want to put he listener in trance. At the highest level. It’s great how Sauter’s fingers fly virtuoso over the strings of his guitar. The drummer booms ecstatically in the background on all 14 instrumental tracks of the record which lasts just under one hour. The music is contemplative, strongly experimental. Released on the label „Catwalk“ and distributed by JaKla/Alive. Those who think the CD is not worth listening to are not into the modern, contemporary music world. The precise grooves, the fantastic loops, the rhythmic low level passages will highly impress many insiders. You bet!
Especially the calm passagey are an Invitation to extended strolls in ones fantasy world. Here one can relax and imagine the sea and maybe untouched nature. While doing so „Tranceactivity“,with the new album, Is not only always rooted to the soul, archaic but always aesthetic. Nobody can say that Tomas Sauter and his fellows didn’t learn their skills. They are simply masters of their profession. And as precisely as the drums of Christoph Staudenmann constantly enters the ear canals, so does Sauter’s guitar voraciously want to lead the music, and as relaxed does the electric bass provide the matching rhythmic background.

The record sets highly intelligent statements outside the mainstream
Don’t let anybody say that modern music would only consist of pseudo sophisticated bands like „Silbermond“ and at its best Michael Jackson. No way! Tomas Sauter „Tranceactivity“ proves that there are such things as highly intelligent basic approaches outside the mainstream, which have what it takes to revolutionize the musical world. They don’t play dance hits; this is music for intellectuals. And nowadays especially those niches have to be developped. Because: Who wants to listen to a boring blarney of Shakira and whatever-it-is?

Tomas Sauter is a musical multitasker – various projects
Back to the subject: Tomas Sauter the highly professional musician, composer, arranger, has been on his path for years now. Whether in chamber music duets, experimental trios or jazz quartets. He is a creative sound explorer with no fear of contacts. He plays music hauntingly and with versatility. Some of his idols are: Villa Lobos, Hendrix, Metheny, Frisell, Scofield. His many musical talents and the restelss search for he perfect sound alone gives him something smooth and very charming. The Catwalk label does well to enter into a long time commitment. His intense and wide musical array produces an incredible progression, which, as mentioned above, has what it takes to revolutionize the modern musical world of insiders. The Catwalk release „Findling“ by Tomas Sauter Tranceactivity will be heard and liked. Not everything is „DJ BoBo“ and „Fettes Brot“! Fortunately!
Christopher Dömges, Suite 101.de/DE 22.12.2010
Superb album
The trio of Tomas Sauter, Urban Lienert and Christoph Staudenmann on their album „Findling“ plays a mixture of classic jazz paired with exceptional groove, rock and lounge passages. It starts with an ambient piece which invites the listener to an extraordinary journey with its digital noises and hallucinatory sounds. It is followed by the actual „real“ first piece: „Sky Bar“.A masterwork! Exciting bass lines, fast drumbeats, spherical soundscapes and a catchy lead guitar.
Therefollows a progressive, hardly imitable rhythm with digital noises once more. The abstract rhythm develops very slowly into an almost rocky tune. There’s a lot of motion in it! And it goes on like this throughout the whole record. Should one think that nothing new would come from further progress, the three gentlemen surprise over and over again. The tunes which have an evident structure are clearly my favourites. The ambient sounds or the disharmonic free jazz parts are pretty interesting and nicely done but they disturb in between the real good groovy tracks like for example „Smalk“. What disturbs me most are the Lo-Fi noises which are deliberately used but sound to me like encoding errors.
Nevertheless: This is a superb album! „Sky Bar“, „Smalk“ and „Mosaik“ alone make the record worth listening to.
Nico Steckelberg, Hörspiegel.de/DE 25.12.2010

Unique musical identity
Findling is the name of Tomas Sauter Tranceactivity's new record. The trio was able to create such unique musical identity over the past fifteen years as one only rarely hears. The three Swiss musicians around the leader Tomas Sauter (guitar, loops) establish an original tonal microcosm consisting of Jazz and Electronics with trance-like elements. The tunes are at first supported by the drummer Christoph Staudenmann who is able to play even the most complex rhythms with the greatest of ease that one can only marvel at. Urban Lienert completes the rhythm and delivers the harmonic base of the interweaving sounds on which Tomas Sauter can run riot and complete the music with his guitar playing. Thus sound collages from a different world emerge, innovative but always of almost traditional aesthetic and perfect interaction. Tomas Sauter Tranceactivity succeeded to record a timeless masterpiece. It is to be hoped that this will be rewarded by the audience. Recommendation!
CD rating: Very recommendable
musikansich.de/D 1.2011

Visionary music
One pulls out the overlooking peace classic "Jazz Is Dead Since '69" after a long time and enjoys the rare mixture of jazz and electronics which gives the old genre actual relevance and from which computer music takes Its disco and plastic fug – and a few days after „Findling“ drifts in. Tomas Sauter's ensemble is just as amazing as Alex Gunia was at that time. What exciting music – not muzak! – can be fabricated by a real jazz artist with an open mind and modern technique.
Tranceactivity – the artist figures under various names in different settings as every open minded listener can learn on his website – have recorded one of the few albums on which one will truly continually discover previously totally unheard-of music.
This does not necessarily have to have something to do with ambient arbitrariness as a confession for one’s own lack of imagination, like „Smalk“ might announce just to appear to be sound in its context. Sauter's guitar loops don’t inspire the band to do loopings but to carefully develop intense sound textures by means of minimal displacement. Therefore especially in the beginning the very vicious „Lava“ does not at any point spout out of the volcano's every crack but instills euphoria similar to „Mosaik“ in low but steady doses into the ear of the listener. Only „Mod“ truly seethes like „Bitches Brew“ a long time ago.

The rhythmic work doesn’t leave one breathless because it possibly evokes the superlative in the higher, faster or longer categories; the notorious devil also lies in the details, headphone listening is therefore a must That way one can hear the fabulous interlocking of drum and bass – and in general: The literal translation of this structure has long become a genre In itself which could well be applied in the case of „Findling“. Dancers as well as academics who haven't completely lost their fanatsy and who discard strict soberness should pay attention to this record. Those who like it noisy will get satisfaction by the short scratchy ending of „Nobody“. A record of consensus precisely because It makes no compromises?
Conclusion: Tranceactivity’s „Findling“ is as beautiful as the rare electric jazz that the old Miles would have played nowadays if he had quit drugs earlier. Tomas Sauter plays visionary music which should absolutely be on the shopping list of every polarised listener with an open mind.
Rating: twelve out of fifteen points
Andreas Schiffmann, PanProgTikum/D 1.2011