Tuesday, April 12, 2011

John Wolf Brennan - The Speed of Dark (solopiano/nonsolopiano) [Leo]

The Speed Of Dark

John Wolf Brennan
Steinway piano, Yamaha piano, arcopiano, prepared piano, tamburopiano, framepiano, indian harmonium, accordion, hohner melodica, pizzicatopiano, irish whistle...

Leo Records 2009

I've been struggling to put my finger on it for quite a while. This is a piano player solo cd, that has little to do with a solo piano recording. During 23 short pieces of music you'll hear piano interlayered with field recordings, whistles, accordion, melodica, or another piano. You'll hear piano played with a fishing string, with drum mallets or a piano prepared with metal objects, you'll hear its natural voice distorted in many strange ways. 

There's an abundance of ideas on this cd that makes it hard to process. A solo format is supposed to be an incredible demanding one as it is a musical equivalent of a monologue, but to turn that into a dialogue with oneself (though the magic of a recording studio) is not only a twist on the tradition (obviously not the first one in the jazz history as it is enough to remember Bill Evans' "Conversations with myself") it also demands an incredible self-discipline and vision. To make this click. To put all the dissonant elements into place.
It's not an easy exercise in piano technique, nor a simply experiment in cross-reference checking piano with other elements. But we get to witness alchemic process of creating many worlds and spaces and realites fusing the same basic element. Hard to classify in all the richness of it - so instead of trying to see the big picture, I prefer to dwell on details in this case. Look at the tiny pictures -and there are 23 of them.
And while there's no real sense of unity throughout the cd (23 tracks, more than 70 minutes of music), each track is coincised, focused, small universe of its own. Whether its tipsy and quirky waltz ("Vals 1," "Vals 2," "Vals 3"). Or a postromantic interlude ("Ever for never"). Or two pianos merging together and creating a "Maelstrom". Brennan takes inspiration from visual arts, literature ("Maelstrom" comes from Edgar Allan Poe, "Divine Cosmody Trip(tych)" is dedicated to paintings by Samuel Welsh that were inspired by "Divine Comedy") - and the results are evocative, very poetic. But he also is inspired by other realities around us, arguably more common, like science ("Keppler on the run", "Black (W)hole"), nature ("On Walser Wanderways) and technology - possibly the most fascinating tracks on the cd as he is playing along and against the 'ghost in the macheine' awakaned in a three cylinders of a 1928 manure pomp or 1930 railroad speedometer ("Pump & Circumstance", "Pumpkinet(h)ics", ""Riggenbach's Rigi Rail Road Riddle").
Funny thing about this cd is that it all seems complex, messy, it definitely lacks unity, but when you accept this multitude, there' a lot of to treasure. Which is music that rich and passionate. Unique if very confounding statement.

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