Complex, creative and with a clear message: in their new album re|construct, the band Phillip Dornbuschs Projektor is campaigning against racism.
By Sophie Emilie Beha
Racism has long been an issue for Phillip Dornbusch, even though he is not directly affected. In this, his second album with the BERTHOLD records label, together with his band Projektor, he approaches the topic from different perspectives – and thus continues to develop the core idea behind the highly regarded debut album Reflex. The nine compositions deal with present day political and social issues. As groundwork, Dornbusch had several conversations with people affected by racism – and incorporated his impressions, including exerts, into the music.
Another key part of this spirited album is Dornbusch’s own process of reflection: “I don’t want to over-emphasise myself, just because I’m doing it. Above all, it should clarify the process of learning, which in my case is also not yet complete.” Listeners should feel encouraged by the album to deal with their personal stance on the subject of racism and to get involved against it. The piece Inescapable Network of Mutuality (a quote from the Civil-Rights-Movement icon Martin Luther King) which leaves plenty of space for free solos and high-contrast parts, also deals with this social challenge.
Such music does not come about overnight. In three extensive trial rehearsals, over one year, the band adopted, changed and transformed the multi-layered compositions. „It was an intensive time,“ recalls Dornbusch. Many elements, timbres and structures only arose out of the rehearsals with the quintet. „This music is hardly musically possible if you don’t deal intensively with it.“ Such a process results in a shared trust and a vigilance in the playing which can be clearly heard: in Doubts, in which Dornbusch has set to music his own self-doubt, he begins by repeatedly suggesting a saxophone phrase, before he finally plays it in full, and then his fellow musicians react before moving on to the next part of the composition.
Take apart and re-assemble. This concept refers both to Dornbusch’s compositions in the rehearsal process, and to the title: re|construct. It is not just reconstruction – it is much more. It signifies the transformation, the creation of something new – always as a collective process. This thought not only refers to the music, but also to society and formulates Dornbusch’s intent, encompassed by re|construct.
The band Projektor met whilst studying, and in the German National Youth Jazz Orchestra. Characteristic of the five musicians from Berlin and Cologne is their distinctive language and their very own handling of the material in which Dornbusch leaves much space. They are augmented in Anthem (a hymn to the cultural landscape) by the singer Lina Knörr and in In Art We Trust (a fiery indictment of racism – also – in Germany) by the rapper Juju Rogers.
For the musicians it is important not to set a banal message in stone. They play with multidimensionality, complexity, complex timbres and counter-flowing rhythms. That which sounds „beautiful“ is constantly estranged. As Anthem develops on floating chords, the melody becomes angry, does not want to float, but jumps and stumbles. This encryption is a typical Dornbusch tool.
The compositions invite your attention: they shimmer, groove and stimulate thinking about the world today. They were recorded in the JRS studio in Berlin by Martin Ruch in January 2022.