This most recent effort from T&TT (not actually a trio at all) features input from more than a dozen musicians. The German supergroup came together in the mid-’90s alongside other groups such as Couch, Console, Village of Savoonga and, most importantly, the Notwist — the Trio steals more than a couple members here. Imagine the more glitchy, electro-acoustic moments on the Notwist’s excellent 2002 release Neon Golden and you’ll have an idea where these guys begin. But the key distinguishing element since the Trio’s 1998 debut has been tenor saxophonist Johannes Enders. He lifts the group out of the quagmire of noodle-y post-rock bands who may use a “jazz-like” approach to instrumental organization, but rarely approach anything actually like jazz.
The group, now on its third full-length release, continues to make music that dips into the crisp Blue Note sounds of the late ’50s and early ’60s, while also creating electronic patchworks as strange and loose as any of Mouse on Mars’ strongest efforts. Enders plays phrases that bring to mind touches of John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy, but they have a skronky warmth all their own. Observing Systems manages to push things farther with its wheezing, disjointed electronic backdrops: You get snippets of static hiss and dub-heaviness forced into a playful rhythm on a track like “Revolution,” and you also get the clanging, progressive stomp of “Motorik.”
This mixture of contemporary jazz elements within such a forward-thinking electronic setting remains a unique one: Even three albums in, the Trio manages to create a sound that seems both spontaneous and yet covered over in that icy dystopian chill favored by those in the electronic vanguard.