Well before the pandemic disrupted and choked off the sort of communal interactions humans require Swedish pianist Mathias Landæus had been lamenting the sense of disconnection he saw around him. “The ecological, environmental and social crisis that humanity is facing is a result of the misconception that we are isolated and disconnected, when, in fact, we humans are all connected and we are all part of nature,” he says “Thus, it’s fundamentally A Crisis of Perception. When we realize on an emotional level that we are in fact connected with everything living, we will start restoring our environment and healing the planet.” Since the Landæus Trio recorded this music in the fall of 2019, things have only become more urgent.
This manifestation of the trio, with bassist Johnny Åman and drummer Cornelia Nilsson has been active for six years now. They’ve made collaborative recordings with poet Daniel Boyacioglu and saxophonist Martin Küchen, but A Crisis of Perception marks the first time they’ve recorded as a trio, and the results make it easy to hear why the leader is so eager to share his enthusiasm. “I love not knowing what’s gonna happen next in the music,” he says of working with this group. “That’s when I feel I can truly relax and be myself.” Indeed, the bond of the musicians suggests what can happen when we nurture and encourage the type of connections that Landæus mentions.
Across these seven impressively disparate original compositions by the pianist the listener experiences the nonchalant range of the band, often in the blink of an eye. The opening “Two Stories,” for example, offers a clinic of rhythmic fluidity, with grooves shifting suddenly, as each musician introduces new schemes as it goes. “Trip Fwd,” written in tribute to the great Swedish pianist Per-Henrik Wallin, toggles between graceful swing and stuttering forward motion—a wild lurch ahead masterfully righted in real-time by the trio.
But many of the pieces address the titular concerns more concretely. The moody ballad “Centuries of Healing,” with melodic echoes of the exotica favorite “Taboo”—perhaps a wishful distraction—bluntly prescribes the severity of environmental crisis with its prescriptive time frame, with or without the presence of people. Åman’s slowly churning bass line and Nilsson’s skittering cymbal patterns on “Nobody Should Have to Go to Mars” are hijacked by an otherworldly synth improvisation, floating between the spirituality of Alice Coltrane and the celestial tones of Sun Ra, with ominous portent suggesting the growing uninhabitability of our own planet. But “Leave Me, Unfolding” might be the album’s most touching moment, a multi-partite assemblage that reflects on our need for connection and ponders the ephemeral nature of hope with a tenderness that feels eternal, thanks in part to the use of the third scale in Messiaen’s La technique de mon langage musical, before flicking into more sweeping, romantic terrain a la Bill Evans. Following gripping, patiently etched solos from the drummer and pianist, the bassist lassoes those written sequences together with a skittering, off-kilter groove with a serialist harmonic exercise that imparts a more sorrowful yet searching quality to a second piano improvisation.
Since making the recording the trio has continued performing in Scandinavia, when limited pandemic restrictions allowed, and Landæus has become active in organizing jazz musicians in social actions related to climate change. A second recording with Boyacioglu will be released later in the year on the pianist’s own label, but the core of this activity revolves around the quiet rapport and astonishing sensitivity these musicians share. There is more to come, and A Crisis of Perception asks us to look around, ignoring divisions where possible in favor of understanding how inter-related our world is.
released June 17, 2022
Cornelia Nilsson drums
Johnny Åman double bass
Mathias Landæus piano and Roland SH-2000, Korg Polysix and Arturia Microbrute Synthesizers on ”Nobody Should Have to Go to Mars”
All compositions by Mathias Landæus
Recorded December 19-20, 2019 at Gula Studion, Malmö | Recording, mixing and mastering by David Carlsson
Produced by Mathias Landæus | Executive produiction by Pedro Costa for Trem Azul | Design by Travassos | Photo by Per Kristiansen