ONETWOTHREE‘s first album doesn’t have a name but that’s just as it should be for a band that’s deceptively simple, mysterious and yet somehow familiar. Three women bassists/ singers from classic Swiss post-punk bands dot their insistent, minimal music with drum patters, synths, chants, commands and joyous wordplay with their sometimes cynical, sometimes sensual take on leisure and consumer culture. The group is appropriately DIY, self-contained and self-produced – their debut was written and played almost entirely by themselves.
Punk rock exploded out of the US and UK but also touched other places around the globe, including the seemingly benign country of Switzerland, which had its own small but vital music scene. It was there that four determined women, including bassist Klaudia Schifferle, pooled the energy and excitement of the music to form the delightfully raucous band Kleenex (later called LiLiPuT) in 1977. Though they hit the UK charts and were heralded in the US press as post-punk heroes, the group broke up in 1983 for the admirable reason that they weren’t having fun anymore. Schifferle was already an internationally known visual artist, having her work displayed around Europe. She also palled around with members of the other bands on the Swiss scene, including some fellow bassists. One of her friends was Madlaina Peer, bassist in the Noknows, who originally studied flamenco guitar and later became a stage and costume designer. Madlaina and Klaudia also became friends with Sara Schär, the singer for the bands TNT and Souldawn and bassist for The Kick. In 2001, Kill Rock Stars reissued the entire output of Kleenex/LiLiPuT for a double CD that earned the band rave reviews once again.
In September 2018, after years of toying with the idea, Peer, Schär and Schifferle decided to pool their resources and hatched the audacious idea for a band made up of three bassists, and thus ONETWOTHREE was born. The child-like name of the band reflects the lively spirit and exuberance of the group, whose triple-bass approach creates sinuous grooves and a minimal, potent sound, using drum patterns and bits of synth and guitar.
The trio sing of illusions, guidelines, decorations, paradise, rabbits, animation and tits and that’s just the first two songs of the 11 song, 35 minute album, recorded in the spring of this year. Highlights include the sexy, suave “Jamais” (with bits of French thrown in), the consumer-crazed robotics of “Buy Buy,” the funky bounce and whistle of “Oh Boy,” the wonderfully grim, catchy call-and-response of “Sudden,” the sweet reverie of “Clouds,” the anthemic protest of “Fake” and the march-rhyme and word play of “Bubbles.”
ONETWOTHREE’s songs blend into a whole, creating a momentum and their own mysterious world. The sound somehow reflects the isolation that we lived in the COVID world of 2020 but also shows the bold determination to come out the other end of the pandemic and thrive. No doubt that we need their spirit right now and in the years to come.