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Bruno Sanfilippo; Endless Melancholy; Joe Evans

Throughout musical history, the pure and delicate sound of the piano has never really been out of style.
But still, recent years
have seen a revival of (more or less) improvised piano music, most of them (more or less) introvert and (somewhat) melancholic in style.  Here’s a selection of some of them that I thoroughly enjoyed recently:

Bruno Sanfilippo - Piano Textures 3

The title leaves no room for surprises. This album is all about piano, and it’s #3 in a series. (Those that want all of them may want to check out the box set including all three).
Bruno Sanfilippo, originally from Buenos Aires, but now living in Barcelona, is not exactly a newcomer in this musical area: he graduated the conservatory of Buenos Aires with a degree in musical composition (piano). This third part of Piano Textures follows the first two releases with the same title (2007/2009), but together these three releases are just a small part of his discography.

With the subtly added sound treatments, almost acting like a shadow of the piano sound itself, softly flowing and elegant, these tracks reminisce some of the best work of Harold Budd.
These eight compositions are all very melodious, never ‘confronting’, yet they indeed present different ‘textures’. Compare, for example, tracks V, VI and VII: flowing from a new age-style cinematic theme to the sounds of a prepared piano, via a beautifully minimalistic (almost) one-chord composition with additional field recordings. To conclude: it’s a beauty!

Bruno Sanfilippo – Piano Textures 3 – I

Endless Melancholy

The title (and in this case also the artist title) leaves no room for surprises.
This album is about melancholic piano music – especially for quiet mornings! In fact, there’s no need to add very much to the statement of this name and title.
Endless Melancholy is Oleksii Sakevych from Kiev, Ukraine. His “passion and love of minimal piano and ambient music” led to the creation of this album, which can be downloaded on name-your-price basis from Bandcamp or can be ordered on CDR from Preserved Sound .

Endless Melancholy – A Song for Dreaming

Joe Evans - Affected Piano

However sweet and melancholic the piano music may be, there may come a time when you are longing to hear something less conforting, something more provocative, something that “does not sit comfortably on this plane of existence”.
“Affected Piano”, the latest release by Runningonair label curator and musician Joe Evans, might be the perfect antidote. Although the album starts out with some dark piano textures, it soon moves into strictly electronic territories.
“Each piece originates from short extracts taken from the piano part of another work. Phases were taken, stretched, distorted, modulated, filtered, layered and then arranged. Occasionally the original phases are reintroduced in a repeated pattern.”
Musicians may note that “the original piano part does not use the standard 12 note western tuning system (12EDO) but instead uses 19 notes (19EDO). The result is that while chords are to the greater extent familiar, unexpected changes and subtle new harmonies run throughout.”
To which I can only add that this results in a haunting sonic landscape that is quite different from the two previously described releases. To say the least…

Joe Evans – Affected Piano 4

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Max Richter – Infra


Next to Johann Johannsson and Ólafur Arnalds, Max Richter is one of the pioneers of the ‘post-classical’ genre, a mixture of classical music, electronic sounds and rock music influences.
Mostly the compositions in this genre are suble and not too complex, often slightly (ore not so slightly) melancholic – the kind of music that feels and sounds like it’s written to be a (movie) soundtrack.

So it should not be a surprise that Richter’s Infra was originally written as a score for Wayne McGregor’s ballet as performed by the Royal Ballet.

For CD, Infra has been adapted and expanded to fit the CD format and to be enjoyed without the ballet. Infra is Richter’s eighth’ album since 2002, and it’s his fourth for the 130701 label, a sublabel of Fat Cat featuring artists like Set Fire to Flames, Sylvain Chauveau and Hauschka, among others.

Opening with distorted shortwave-radio fragments and morse-code, one may get the impression that this is gonna be one of those albums of extreme electronic drones – but soon the intensely melancholic string session comes in, presenting Infra’s main theme. From that point on, the album’s beauty may definitely grab you by the throat.

Whether it’s the clean electronics, the stretched orchestral drones, or the Philip Glass-like violin and piano parts, Max Richter sure knows how to combine these elements to a single organic composition.

There have been quite a lot memorable albums in the post-classical genre. Infra definitely is one of the best and most impressive.

(Note – A BBC documentary about the ballet project as well as a full performance will be released on DVD later. But the musical score will be different from the reworked pieces on this album)

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