Stefan Oberthaler’s “Journey_Man”: An Esoteric Nu Jazz Voyage, Sci-Fi Style
(from 2011) Europe’s Killervirus label delivers a new electronic musical message from the future.
Stefan Oberthaler’s “Journey_Man” is jazz music for the 21st century, an intriguing mix of retro keyboard sounds and glitch inspired atmospherics flirting with ultra futuristic nu jazz elements. The disc features a good mix of ambient flavored instrumentals, soulful pop tunes with vocals, and a couple of upbeat numbers with a touch of nu-funk – each showcasing the skillful programming and keyboards laid down in Oberthaler’s Mac-based studio. Masterful songwriting by Oberthaler and his collaborators Marina Trost, Mariko Kiyose, Bella Wagner, and Forss adds the human factor that’s obligatory in any good science fiction adventure.
Oberthaler, who hails from Vienna, Austria and trained in classical and jazz in nearby Innsbruck’s famed Mozarteum high school before launching dual careers performing jazz and teaching piano, has loaded the disc with modal jazz in the form of tasty melodic electronic piano riffs, funk and techno bass, shimmering sequenced pads, and programmed percussion – sounds that transport the listener out of his or her terrestrial environ into esoteric locales of the sort that only the imagination can conjure up.
In his formative years, Oberthaler was strongly influenced by the jazz greats of a bygone era – John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, Bill Evans and the rest – and though Oberthaler occupies different sonic and conceptual space, the modal jazz of these giants resonates in the chordal and melodic structures of the eclectic nu jazz “Journey_Man.”
Simultaneously Nostalgic and Forward-Looking
Visions of space travel and sleek sci-fi destinations come to mind, as layers of electronics percolate and swirl, along with the occasional earthy vocal that lends an organic feel to the proceedings. Oberthaler’s sly, woozy electronic piano solos are the perfect contrast to the programmed synths – “Re_Touch,” “Fly5” (with a wink to Dave Brubeck) and “Rewire” feature a nice mix of techno and smooth future jazz sounds, including the tastiest piano patch my ears have ever feasted upon (an intentionally distorted Fender Rhodes). The vocals of guest stars Trost, Kiyose and Wagner add a traditional pop jazz element to the mix on the tunes “Moment,” “Move,” and “Mother.” –One can easily imagine the songs on this disc as featured entertainment in a space shuttle or moon colony lounge of a not too distant future. The warmth and soulfulness of the vocal songs in particular serves as an intriguing counterbalance to the cool electronics of the album’s mix, while Forss’s spoken-word performance on the closing track sums up the foregoing themes nicely:
“Today I’m the gunpowder in a continental bullet/in the electric vein coursing through The Black Forest/My destination just beyond the trees/A relatively young man traveling through ancient countrysides/On a newfangled sidewalk technology.”
Eric Wahlforss is credited with the story; presenting himself as the powerfully-named “Forss” he casually raps a set of richly poetic lyrics that sum up the soul/sci-fi paradox that characterizes the album, the opposing elements complimenting each other like cosmic forces of past/future, electron/proton, yin/yang. As Forss lays his smooth voice down atop a retro-futuristic shuffle, a sense of nostalgia for those journeys of the mind enjoyed by audiences of the best science fiction films sets in.
“This particular world I travel through is much older than the world I call my home/I feel like I’ve been here before/Iron curtains falling as certain as rain
The atmostphere is wistful and forward looking at the same time, and the niche of sci-fi jazz is one that Oberthaler’s tunes occupy very well. I look forward to hearing more of what his musical team can conjure up next. Those in Europe won’t have to wait long – they can get their fix this summer as Oberthaler aka Keyminator travels around the continent in support of the album. Find out more about this innovative artist atwww.stefanoberthaler.com .