May 31, 2023

Some music can be very immediate and becomes almost like an old friend on first listening and, in contrast, there is also so much out there that is a little more esoteric and can take any number of listens for it to unravel and make sense. This then often leads to a small feeling of triumph when, finally, everything falls into place. As we all know, there are many varieties and genres within the general rock classification and most albums fall neatly into a pre-defined category but there are so many interesting bands out there that make challenging music and seem to refuse to be pigeonholed. What can often be perceived to be a ‘difficult’ album on first listen can often become pure gold when the message finally is understood and a record that must be carefully nurtured can often be one that stays with you for life. The message is therefore to persevere and the treasure can be found!

The Monika Roscher Bigband is such an entity as the cursory listen has you head spinning with what is being served up and you really need to sit, listen and repeat before the full glories are finally revealed. The group is exactly what the name implies – a big band that is led by the mercurial and talented German singer, guitarist and composer Monika Roscher. She has assembled a band of 18 musicians that delights in serving up an intriguing concoction of jazz rock, progressive rock, art rock and adult popular music that inspires and challenges in equal measure. Roscher is the voice of the project as well as band leader and what a superb job she does in channelling the talents of the individuals to produce music that pushes the boundaries with a Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart, Björk zeitgeist and could very much be the sound of the new millennium. This is more than mere music but a new art form that pushes the boundaries above and beyond in the search for something new and culturally significant and it is very much the ride of your life. Miles Davis would have loved this as, like him, it challenges and pushes the jazz boundaries and just about any ’70s prog musician would have immediately bought into the concept as Roscher spins her imaginative and perfectly delivered stories with a voice that is a stunning mixture of Björk and Noosha Fox although you may need to be 60 plus to get the Fox/Susan Traynor reference!

The intriguingly titled Witchy Activities And The Maple Death is the band’s third album since forming in Munich in 2011 and maybe the craziness of that city has given Roscher the experimental background to pursue her dreams and she has most definitely generated much positive interest around the world for her new and off-the-wall take on the big band sound. The music is haunting, atmospheric and often ethereal and allows you to see and hear a new and innovative way to experience a huge brass section in harmony with more conventional rock instruments and all channelled perfectly through the sheer genius of Monika Roscher.

Do not be afraid or put off by the big band name and if you are expecting something similar to Glen Miller then be prepared for a big surprise as this is about as good as esoteric rock music gets. Haunting, fragile, powerful and all-encompassing this truly is a work of sheer genius.

Witchy Activities And The Maple Death

  1. Prinzessinnen (9:04)
  2. Firebird (4:53)
  3. Witches Brew: The Summoning (3:09)/Moon Is Melting (1:37)/The Brew (0:18)/ The Woods (3:07)/ Dance Of The Sleepy Spirits (1:51)/ Return Of The Witches (2:30),
  4. Creatures Of Dawn (7:32)
  5. Queen Of Spades (4:29)
  6. Starlight Nightcrash (5:23)
  7. A Taste Of The Apocalypse (5:21)
  8. The Leading Expert Of Loneliness (4:05)
  9. Direct Connection (6:12)
  10. Unbewegte Sternenmeere (4:46)