Sum of R - Lahbryce

29 Apr 2022 - Thorsten

Consouling Sounds | Release date: 25 Mar 2022 | Favorite song: The Problem

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Sum Of R before was more or less the sum of Reto Mäder‘s ideas, as he was the mastermind behind the project and, for most of its existence, the solo songwriter for Sum of R. Now the band has been transformed into a trio and one cannot deny the astounding impact the two new members have had on the sound, the songwriting and seemingly even on Reto himself. The resulting new record, Lahbryce, is an early but very strong contender for one of the top ranks on this year’s AOTY list!

One cannot deny the effect that line-up-changes can have on a band but if you ever need a good example, take Sum of R: Reto’s latest full-length, 2017’s Orga, surely was a good one and it surely hid its slightly doomy parts well behind a wall of ambience. Lahbryce on the other hand, is surely much more open in its approach to music. The whole record emanates a certain grandeur that has rarely been heard in the realms of drone, doom, kraut and psychedelic. The new members, Marko Neuman on the vocals and electronics and Jukka Rämänen on the drums, have loads of experience in bands like Dark Buddha Rising and Waste of Space Orchestra (both), Ural Umbo (Marko together with Reto), Hexvessel or Dust Mountain (Jukka). They bring their own background to the table, their own ideas and their own influences. Therefore, own might say, that this is the first time that Sum of R really is an equal and unified “sum”.

The music on this record is a real amalgam of the things that Reto has done before and in that sense it is a perfection of his circle: it got some of the haunted-ness of Ural Umbo, a bit of the Krautrock of Je Gong, uses some field recordings like Pendulum Nisum and it also has the doomy aspects of the it Sum of R predecessors. But interesting are the new, somewhat shuffling drums by Jukka and the electronic noise elements by Marko. Reto’s bass is used in his usual, more riffing way, with not too much picking or tapping of the strings, so one might say that he is playing the bass more like a guitar, but that also creates this voluminous sound that he is known for.

Nevertheless, the one thing that strikes the listener is Marko’s voice, because, unlike his vocals in Ural Umbo or Dark Buddha Rising, it is used to its fullest capacity here and man, what a voice. Listening to his final soundcheck at Roadburn one had the impression of listening to a talented female soul singer. The range he comes up with is truly amazing reaching from really dark shrieks to a full-fledged soprano, that’s quite some versatility he makes great use of. Sometimes he can be heard lamenting the loss of the beloved and a few moments later shrieking out his lungs to the fullest despair possible. This is surely a talent that makes Lahbryce such a dark horse for this year. Everything seems possible on this record and every association might be valid. One can hear some wonderful hellish mix of Algiers and Dark Buddha Rising, while other people hear Je Gong mixed with Waste of Space Orchestra. However, this trio makes music that stands outside of the normal possibility of categorization or “genrefication”.

Some little things that might be worth mentioning: the basis to many of the songs seems to be a kind of psychedelic ritual steeped in repetition and re-wiring. There are some wonderful speech samples on some songs. Even a nice little background piano can be heard, just like some angelic, upward reaching bells. There is some near-pop drumming with highly positive synth-notes at the beginning of the fourth track. And most important to this author: The record is a record and it is very, very difficult to single out the best track, because it has a wonderful flow, which is surely one of the most crucial things about such music and is something all three wanted to achieve. However, that is also the reason why it is not a collection of tracks but a real record, which was recorded in Finland where all three spent time working and living together last year. It becomes quite clear that all three share a deep respect for each other and a close friendship, because without either one cannot record such a record that will be a highlight for so many people. Now, Sum of R is more than the sum of Reto’s work but the sum of really good friends creating something quite unique. Lahbryce, ladies and gentlemen!