press quotations on "oloid" - April 26th, 2015

"A geometric body as the spark for musical inspiration? Sounds a bit prudish, a bit overstrung even. But the oloid doesn't stand for dry mathematics. This object, first discovered or rather calculated by the anthropologist Paul Schatz, meets the eye of the beholder in a deeply organic, and, indeed, playful way. It resembles the body of an amoeba, but also has traits of the starship Enterprise.

And when it is rolled over its own edges, when this thing wobbles across the stage like it does at the beginning of the concert, then one really does associate it with rhythms, swaying syncopal grooves, broken beats.

The oloid doesn't just get the show rolling in the most literal sense of the word, it also provides beats: Tapped by fingers, it sounds a little like rain rattling on tin, like a "Hang" without a fixed pitch.

But just as prominently as it initially takes centre stage, it then fades into the background, sitting at the edge of the stage as an immovable guardian. For now, the other characteristic timbre that defines the outlines of vocal artist Christian Zehnder and drummer Gregor Hilbe's «Oloid» project takes over. It is provided by gigantic, angular wooden flutes, the largest of them tall as a man. Snorting, sighing sounds escape from them, as reminiscent of a creaking old railway engine as they are of an orchestra of native jungle flutes, or the very deep registers of a church organ that have taken on a life of their own. The artists deliver a groovy stereophony on them, investing considerable physical effort. Smokers' lungs can't do that, that much is certain.

Gregor Hilbe feeds a rich line-up of drumbeats into the these rhythms, proving himself to be a percussive wanderer: Hung heavy with gongs, or with a barrel drum in front of his belly, he ambulates between flutes and drums, applying a little loop technique here, spatially fanning out the beats on his laptop there. Over all this, Zehnder unfolds his vocal theatrics, which are as grandiose as they are impulsive: With imaginary syllables he outlines the personality of a rapturous castrato, then erupts into a roaring leviathan moments later, or a wild horseman on the Mongolian steppes.

And as if the many roles that the two musicians take on weren't enough, they are joined by their third man, Matthias Loibner. Some may remember him from Austrian folk rebels Deishovida, with whom he began freeing the hurdy-gurdy from the image of the rooty organ grinder

Loibner really is the radical alternative draft to the dull organ grinder: He fills the medieval mechanism with ghoulish whimpers, lets the sounds howl out monstrously like the song of an injured whale, bids them to buzz in giddy syncopation. In short: He imbues this formerly so rigid instrument with a multi-layered personality.

The acoustic imagery which this trio consequently creates seems to know no borders: Over a wild gallop of toms and bass drum the whimpering gyrations of the hurdy-gurdy intertwines with the whispered overtones from the throat of Christian Zehnder, which trick the listeners into believing that he is actually playing a mouth harp. Drops of water can provide a fundamental beat here just as easily as crystalline loops from wine glasses can mingle with the flutes. It is with these that Zehnder's vocal art at one point blends with to become an independent organism of its own, when he unleashes a blues-like intermezzo with animalistic sounds. And in the quiet moments, even hints of a sacral atmosphere are conjured up, murmurs and whispers that one might hear in an old church, through the echo of the centuries.

And suddenly, a redefinition of alpine yodelling arises: Initially called out from the mountain in majestic fashion, then rushing and tumbling to the uneven, driving metres of the drum set.

Generally, many of the grooves Hilbe provides are in a style reminiscent of rock music. He reveals the energies of a poly-rhythmically packed drummer who invests much effort into footwork, who likes to put the drumsticks away once in a while in order to work the drumhead directly with his hands.

At the end of this performance, which is as rich in imagination as it is in humour, what remains is the overwhelming impression that one has just listened in on the struggle of man with the primal forces of the elements themselves. That one has heard an epic from mythical times, in which language was only just forming itself as a mirror of natural sounds. And at the end of the show, there it is again, the oloid: Zehnder yodels the syllables of its name while cradling the object in his hands, like a treasure that refuses to give up its final secrets."


stuttgarter zeitung

”...archaic art music: Anyone who has already had the pleasure of listening to „Oloid“, an album of outstandingly transparent production released through Traumton Records in the past year, might have sworn that it wouldn't be possible to reproduce this music live at all, or at least not with the same quality and intensity. On Sunday evening, Swiss voice acrobat Christian Zehnder and drummer Gregor Hilbe, originally from Liechtenstein, proved them wrong, and celebrated their imaginary folklore with a superb sound design in front of a sizeable audience at Dieselstrasse.An installation consisting of two sets of six wooden mouth-organs which served as an eye-catcher on the stage was completed with a drum set, a cello, a bandoneon and a modestly sized glass harp. According to Christian Zehnder, the music of „Oloid“ moves between Papua New Guinea and Johann Sebastian Bach, between archaic rhythms and European art music.And there's more: Hilbe, who has previously worked with Fela Kuti drummer Tony Allen, rustled up complex rhythm loops as a platform for Zehnder's overtone vocals and the scenic performances which lined them. Brittle at times, sacral at others, on occasion genuinely enthralling minimal dance floor tracks for an esoteric disco. The artistic engagement with the complex of ideas arising from the alpine space, a distinctive hallmark of Zehnder's erstwhile projects Stimmhorn and Schmelz, has been taken out of the picture in the case of „Oloid“. Instead, the musicians play an abstract or perhaps global music, which dissolves the borders between various spiritually informed folklores, repetitive trance experiments and physically exhausting avant-garde performance with effortless charm. The programme of „Oloid“ is of such richness in concept and dramaturgy that the only encore the artists were left with to provide was to pitch their current CD in a manner that was both playful and promotional. The production costs of the CD had ruined them financially, they claimed, which now forced them to tour incessantly. A source of pure joy for the audience in every respect...“



”…An album of minimalist magic…”

(Complete review as PDF document)


basellandschaftliche/aargauer zeitung

”…archaic and modern, totally wild and yet totally controlled at the same time. And being in the audience, one feels one thing particularly strongly at the end of the show: The sensation of being alive. Thunderous applause...“



”...with Oloid, Christian Zehnder and Gregor Hilbe have developed a sound that is certain to be uncharted territory for many listeners... For the full effect, it should be listened to in one session, ideally at night and through headphones. Only thus can listeners become one with the mystic sound and lose themselves in a momentous wave of sound, which is shamanistic and primal in the best sense of the word, indeed almost psychedelic. The driving rhythm occasionally conjures up mental imagery of magma, although the comparison at this point seems more apt for the cumulative effect of the whole work...“


jazz dimension

”...the thought that this might be nothing more but a mere fleeting appropriation of an unusual set of instruments evaporates during the experience of listening to it, and is replaced with an enduring sense of amazement...”



”...listening to this music, you are invited on a journey to far-off worlds, which aren't necessarily to be found on this earth. Panta rhei. Everything flows. The history of mankind transcends into the present. The Oloid as an all-connecting symbol. The result of this connection: Rhythms, sounds, never before heard in such complexity...”



”...if one now joins the two of them in breaking into the Oloid, it feels like entering into a forgotten empire – one that is simultaneously also an abandoned space station from the future...“



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