The Moving Box

Another interesting reissue from Mental Experience, the division of Guerrsen which is devoted to finding lost rarities from the 1970s, with an especial interest in krautrock, free improv, and art music of all stripes. This time we have Mouvements (MENT021), which originally stalked the earth in 1973; or at least a small part of Geneva and its environs, and assuming you were alive and frequenting art galleries in that part of the world, you might have stood a faint chance of glomming an original copy. It was somewhat of an art object; packaged in a silver box, limited to 150 copies, and issued with litho prints made by Heinrich Richard Reimann, the Swiss optical artist.

Mouvements is mostly the work of Christian Oestreicher, a jazz rock guitarist, who had the inspiration to put out an “underground” release when he met Reimann and other non-mainstream artists at the Aurora gallery. He recruited fellow musicians who also played jazz-rock, and they recorded the music here in 1972. These players included Jean-François Boillat on the electric piano; violinist Blaise Catala, who has the rare distinction of playing on an Andre Jaume LP; and drummer Jerry Chardonnens, who surfaced again in 1980 on an LP for Hat Hut with Radu Malfatti. The original eight tracks from the 1973 LP are presented here, along with five bonus cuts from the same period. The music is mostly pretty good jazz-rock in an “art” vein, and while press notes hasten to provide the usual shopping list of similar music (Soft Machine and Zappa are duly name-checked), I can also hear traces of RIO groups like Henry Cow and Etron Fou Leloublan, especially on the weirder energetic cuts like ‘Goutte De Sang En Feu’, with its bizarre (and rather over-used) sample of a cock crowing.

Oestreicher’s guitar prowess is never in doubt for a second, and even John McLaughlin fans may come away sated from these pacey instrumental workouts. There’s also more far-out excursions, such as ‘Hard-Rock Overture’ which wouldn’t feel out of place on an Amon Düül II record; if only the musicians would actually put a bit more effort into the “rock”, instead of the cosmic meandering and aimless faff. ‘Nebel/Leben’ is another one in this darkish-Krautrock vein, with a more reliable groove, and it’s given extra oomph with that jet-takeoff sound effect sample. The extra bonus cuts don’t really do much to shine up the reputation of this obscurity, though, and on lengthy jams like ‘My Guitar Is Driving Me Mad’ and ‘The Playwriter’s Drift’, the band just sound like a Zappa mid-1970s crew with Don Sugarcane Harris. As ever, this reissue label resorts to superlatives and hyperbole to assure us of the credentials of this record, and they have gone to tremendous lengths to restore the look and feel of the original limited-edition package on the LP version. To me, it’s interesting and well-performed, but not really “out” enough; a good 75% of the playing is fairly typical rote jazz-rock of the period, and the addition of a few sound effects and extended jams don’t sufficiently tip the balance towards art-rock. As to Christian Oestreicher, he doesn’t seem to have surfaced much on record before or since, although there is the 1988 LP Musique Combinatoire, and his contributions to the experimental LP Au Homard by Vincent Barras and Jacques Demierre, both of which were released on the short-lived Mega Wave Orchestra label. From 5th April 2018.