Touch guitarist Markus Reuter’s new album Truce is utterly bracing, a cold slap in the face that boggles the mind and kicks off 2020 in the best way possible. Recorded live in the studio on a single day in collaboration with bassist Fabio Trentini and drummer Asaf Sirkis, this is the unfiltered sound of three virtuosos throwing caution to the winds and just going for it. Put simply, these seven instrumentals rock — hard, sharp and smart.
Reuter (best known for his partnership with King Crimson members Tony Levin and Pat Mastoletto in Stick Men) lets rip without a pause, now firing off astonishingly ballsy/brainy solos, now laying down pensive, brooding soundscapes — then layering the one atop the other! Trentini is stunningly melodic and stunningly powerful on fretless bass, always laying down a deep, unshakeable foundation for Reuter’s explorations. Sirkis (one of the subjects of Bill Bruford’s doctoral dissertation Uncharted) is a genuine revelation on drums — simultaneously disciplined and free, tight and loose, spinning out endlessly compulsive grooves, whether subtle or stomping. From start to stop, the music these three make is unbeatably powerful, head-snappingly varied, and vividly compelling — whether on the searing stomp of a title track, the brutal mid-tempo funk of “Bogeyman”, the abstract balladry of “Be Still My Brazen Heart”, or the Police-ified dub wig-out of “Let Me Touch Your Batman”. Listening to Truce is an hour-long thrill ride with tons of substance to chew on through multiple listens — one you need to experience for yourself.
Beyond its sheer brilliance, Truce is also a testament to one of progressive music’s unsung heroes — the 100th release masterminded by Leonardo Pavkovic. Since 2001, Pavkovic’s one-man operation MoonJune Records has been on a mission to “explore and expand boundaries of jazz, rock, ethnographic, avant, the unknown and anything between and beyond” with artists from across the globe. Whether relatively well-known (Tony Levin, Stick Men, Soft Machine) or criminally anonymous in the Western Hemisphere (Indonesian fusioneers Duwa Budjana and Dwiki Dharmann, Sirkis’ rewarding solo projects and marvelous International Quartet featuring vocalist Sylvia Bialas, masterful European musos like guitarist Mark Wingfield and drummer Xavi Reija), Pavkovic has believed in them, recorded them on their own and in exciting combinations (often at Spain’s La Casa Murada, where Truce was laid down), and helped them take their music to the people. Already this year, Pavkovic has mounted North American tours of The Levin Brothers (cool jazz with Tony and pianist brother Pete) and vintage English/German proggers Nektar; Stick Men dates in Asia and North America follow starting in February. Whew!
If all of the above intrigues you, MoonJune currently offers two in-depth ways to get in on the action. A subscription plan gets you everything released for a year as multiple format downloads plus bonus back catalog albums and samplers plus 25 percent off vinyl, CD and merch purchases. (I splurged on this with Christmas cash, and am already plotting what to get next.) Or the same amount ($100) gets you 19 album downloads from across MoonJune’s catalog or 19 CDs (selected catalog titles, with a minimal shipping charge added).
But if the above is too rich for your wallet, or you want to dip a toe in the water first, take my advice: listen to Truce. And buy Truce. Then dive deeper into what MoonJune Records has to offer. I think you’ll be glad you did!
— Rick Krueger