Zone Music Reporter
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