Bruno Sanfilippo continues to impress/amaze me with Piano Textures, his most audacious recording yet. Talk about truth in advertising,
"Piano textures" is more or less exactly what you get on these eight tracks, achieved, in this case, on an 84-year old Steinway, sampled and manipulated via sustain and other studio magic. Besides piano, there is a sampled duduk (an Armenian wind instrument), as well as sampled strings and some synths too. The recording earns its title Piano Textures because it's the piano's "textures" that grab a hold on you and crawl into your subconscious mind, evoking emotions from profound sorrow to fear to solemnity and reflection and, by the end, reflection and serenity.
This is an intricate yet primal album, appealing equally to the intellect and to the primitive ego self.
Tracks are titled "Piano Textures" followed by the appropriate Roman numeral.
"I" features a forlorn minimalist piano refrain on both the lower and upper registers, accompanied by a wailing tone that is "pretty" yet subtly scary at the same time.
In mood, this cut and the next two are similar to Mychael Danna's more melancholic work on Skys, crafting a sense of isolation, foreboding and unease. "II" strips away the more abstract sounds/effects, leaving the densely echoed piano to be accompanied by warm tones from a sampled cello. Again, the overall emotional impression is of pervasive sadness. Sparse synths in the background lend some added depth.
"III" evokes the strongest comparison to Danna's Skys, with a delicate series of echoed piano refrains (here, the piano could also be
compared to Tim Story's music) along with sampled duduk and bowed bass.
Somber doesn't even begin to describe the tone of this piece, yet it's intensely beautiful as well. "IV" presents abstract, somewhat atonal
and dissonant (at times) solo piano which veers from sparse and minimal to miniature explosions of intense drama.
I usually loathe experimental avant garde music but this track really does it for me.
The music is creepy/scary (if you don't think of walking through a deserted haunted house, you haven't seen enough ghost movies!) and
yet immensely compelling. "V" begins in an ambient vein by "texturizing" the piano more through deeper sustain.
Here, the mood is peaceful and more in keeping with the traditional ambient oeuvre (e.g. Brian Eno or Harold Budd ).
A warm drone/tone accompanies the extremely minimal piano notes (the drone may actually be echoed sustain for all I know).
Of the remaining tracks, "VI" contains warbling quavering tones, whistling synths and shimmering bells but all of them, while draped in shadow, still manage to be relatively calm (those bell tones can be disquieting though). "VII" comes closest to being a straight-up ambient piano piece, with the only noticeable additional effect being that incredible sustain period, although some sparse synthesizer may be present at the periphery, and "VIII" is an airy spacious exploration of a frozen landscape, evoked through the delicate piano notes that seem to hover in mid-air surrounded by lots of drones/textures/noises imparting the vision of a vast stretch of land before you.
The counterpoint of the "warm" piano notes set against the cold barrenness of the accompanying other musical/noise elements is particularly evocative.
With this release (as well as his previous effort, the overlooked and brilliant InTRO)
Bruno Sanfilippo clearly stands apart from many other ambient artists recording today. Frankly, I'm in awe of his unique musical vision and the singular direction his music is taking in these last two recordings. Whether or not ambient music fans can appreciate Piano Textures,
I personally think this is an amazing piece of work and consider it one of the finest albums so far this year and staggeringly original in overall concept and execution. My highest recommendation. Rating: Excellent
Zone Music Reporter
“Piano Textures” is an introspective album which offers center stage for the processed sounds of a Grand old piano from 1923, accompanied
by some synthesizers, duduk and samples of strings. All eight tracks have a more or less cinematic impact, their sounds tap from some kind
of subconscious source, breathing a sense of melancholy that was also found in his former recordings.
Personally I find the third part the strongest exercise with its uplifting timbre and warm duduk and stringsounds.
In all, this is very well executed music for the mind to make things settle down. Well done Bruno!
STYLE: A suite of eight haunting piano ambiences laden with lush sustain. Piano Textures is built around the rich, uncluttered sound of a solo Steinway lady grand piano supported by a variety of strings, synths and the unique strains of the duduk. Minimal melody lines unfold in unhurried patterns - delicate, resonant - sometimes brief phrases repeating with variation of intensity, structure, emphasis or perhaps with the supporting sounds subtly altered. Sometimes the sonic air is thick with reverberation, the piano accompanied by its own ripples, low notes almost rumbling, eerie effects keening in the distance. The processed notes seem to become increasingly tuneful as the album progresses - yet never overly so - always restrained. Sleeve notes explain that the compositions are arranged in chronological order.
MOOD: Bruno Sanfilippo plays with an elegant simplicity that is a true delight to hear - restful arrangements that soothe, enchant and absorb the listener. Many of the tracks have a melancholy feel that is all the more doleful in such sparcity of expression. This introspective sadness becomes almost tangible at times, in some of the more melodic parts there is a beautiful aching sensation. There is also a brooding, ethereal quality often present - the atmosphere both powerfully intense and delicate at the same time.
ARTWORK: The front cover image initially hits the eye as a glowing abstraction in orange/red - on closer inspection swirls of hair, fabric and ambiguous colour present a variety of visual textures. On the rear, another red texture image is montaged with a faint window photograph - here is a simple track list with associated timings. Inside the sleeve opens to reveal a muted portrait of the artist positioned at ninety degrees to the text that could almost be missed on first glance. Here we find some explanatory notes, a dedication, credits and contact details.
OVERALL: Piano Textures is the latest in a growing list of powerful instrumental releases from Bruno Sanfilippo This album presents the sounds of the piano "sampled by post musical instruments, with 10 recorded velocity layers with 10 separate sustain pedal down layers and release triggered samples". The results are truly amazing - lush, evocative compositions that fill the minds eye with associative imagery. The recordings were made at night and the tracks reflect this nocturnal influence throughout.
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM: Piano Textures will appeal to anyone that enjoys atmospheric ambience with just enough melody to touch the heart. If you enjoy processed piano minimalism don't miss this one.
...Simple and elegant, mesmerizing and haunting. I absolutely love turning up the volume, and letting
every hypnotic and melancholic note weep gently through the night. For the lovers of Max Richter, Eluvium, Rafael Anton Irisarri, and Zbigniew Preisner. I highly recommended this gem!
This album is what it says, eight pieces of piano music recorded in night sessions on a 1923 Steinway, along with strings, synthesizers,
and something called an Armenian duduk. Needless to say, this is not driving music.
This is music for having friends over for wine and quiet conversation – or perhaps for just having an evening alone with one special friend.
The piano playing is delicate and beautiful.
The strings complement the music nicely, although I find they add considerable sadness to the beauty. Most pieces are sparse and slow, although track four is a notable exception, a more serious piece with occasional interludes of faster playing with more discordant notes, interspersed with brief periods of silence.
My favorite track by far is number five, a more ambient work that keeps the piano in the background and relies more on atmospheric electronics.
Track six is also interesting, a more experimental piece where perhaps the piano samples have been processed in some way.
The first half of the album makes me too sad, but it is very well done.
However, I much prefer the later tracks as it gets more ambient, leading up to the excellent closing track which blends piano and electronics perfectly.
The Argentine with the keyboard touch has always favored the sound of the piano.
By adding a variety of treatments and synthesizer effects, Bruno has come up with a release that echoes of Harold Budd in terms of spatial feel and textural approach. For those who fear "too much piano" you will find a smooth yet atmospheric arena in which to immerse yourself.
For those who have awaited Sanfillippo's move away from the layered synth sound, the wait is over and the rewards are very fulfilling.
A wonderful melodic ambient journey...
"Piano Textures", the latest from Bruno Sanfilippo, is a wonderful example of the less is more school of recording, a stunning disc that revels in creating a series of environments using only minimal instrumentation. Largely based around live work using a grand piano with some processing
and sparse accompaniment, Sanfilippo has crafted a powerfully emotive and beautiful disc.
Featuring minimal piano-based loops and patterns, Sanfilippo masterfully creates mournful melodies that are delightfully dark and haunting.
Tracks range from sparse tracks where piano is the only instrument, to more complex works where metallic pads and a smattering of strings
add to the environment, filling out the sound but never detracting or overpowering the delicate beauty of the piano found throughout all of the disc's songs. It's a disc of rich sounds and subtle nuance, where Sanfilippo is able to alternate between deep atmospheric pieces like
"Piano Textures V" where tones are effected and processed to create a spacey almost drone-styled environment, to the simple charms of
"Piano Textures VII" where the piano is played organically and naturally.
Taken as individual pieces, Sanfilippo shows himself to be equally comfortable in a variety of styles, and taken as a whole, "Piano Textures"
proves him to be a bright new star in the ambient scene.
Dreamlike and emotive, by turns both very beautiful and very sad, "Piano Textures" is a wonderful disc that showcases Sanfilippo's talents and skills. A truly wonderful work to become acquainted with this very talented performer.
While a grand piano is the main source for the sounds utilized on this release, strings and duduk are also sampled and heavily treated to contribute to the tunes. This union results in a haunting mood that goes beyond melancholy to inject brooding with a touch of optimism.
The piano serves as a focal point, expressing sedate chords of accentuated desolation. The strings, elongated and often flipped sideways, provide an emotional counterpoint for that ponderous mood. Their classical edge imbues the melodies with a vivid humanity,
a sadness that remains unemotional as it strives for an objective vantage.
Synthesizers are also present, often producing a ghostly backdrop tapestry for the music's more prominent aspects.
These compositions explore a desire to temper despair with a greater neutrality, revealing the transience of depression and its skewed
viewpoint once the bigger picture comes into focus. Classical sensibilities are fused with an ambient model, producing tunes that are
modern yet nostalgic. Surprisingly uplifting, all things considered.