Wednesday 13th MayMay 14, 2009
Another day another CD review then… I’ve done a good few lately, hope you don’t mind another. Today was a bit crazy, I spent the morning trying to get far too much done in not enough time, then left for work when I did pretty much the same thing again but got paid for it, then stumbled home and put on a CD. Yeah some of you may have noticed I do that every day. Life is somewhat predictable.
Tonight I have been listening to a solo disc of prepared piano music called Capsizing Moments by Sophie Agnel, released on the Emanem label. I have happily lapped up every bit of prepared piano I can find over recent years such is my love for the instrument. I haven’t heard that much from Agnel before though, just the odd disc here and there, but I picked this one up because it looked interesting when I saw it on the Emanem table at Freedom of the City and also because she is coming to London very soon and I wanted to know if it would be worth popping along.
There are three tracks on the album, the first and last weighing in at around the twenty minute mark, the middle piece half the length. For the majority of the CD Agnel’s playing is quite heavy and loud. It is hard to describe the music as particularly complex or busy because it isn’t as such. There are long durations of pummelling piano with various objects placed on the strings, maybe one or two notes played on the keyboard or plucked from within the instrument. What happens for much of the disc then is the cumulative effect caused by objects (plastic cups, metal ashtrays etc..) rattling about alongside the usual piano notes and scrapes. There are all kinds of vibrations, chimes, buzzes and thuds caused, and for much of the release these come thick and fast and my enjoyment of the disc comes from listening into the music, picking out particular sounds and following them, or waiting for them to reappear.
There are a few quieter moments here and there though when Agnel steps back and lets the music breathe a little and surprise, I like these parts a lot, mainly though because of the way they sit adjacent to the noisy storms and provide a nice contrast. My favourite track by some way is the third one titled, rather boringly Capsizing Moments part 3. It begins at the quieter end, with little flurries over the strings here and there, but only a few searching notes picked out on the keyboard. Gradually the music builds though as Agnel’s fingers scurry around the keyboard accompanied by scrapes and whines from inside the instrument and the odd crunching metallic sound when particular keys are hit. Gradually the volume and density of the piece builds, with rhythmic circles turning round and round as clouds of tinkling, rattling and chiming grow before, with twelve minutes of the album remaining it all cuts away bar one tiny bell that is left tinkling alone for all its worth for a good few minutes. Slowly a nice structure of bowed and scraped sounds and dry thuds follows out of the quiet, and the piece begins to find the rhythmic patters again, full of gradually shifting details until it drifts to an end.
I wouldn’t say there is anything that groundbreaking here, and I think I prefer Agnel in collaborative settings if this solo is anything to go by. It is not bad music at all and in places touches on patches of real beauty, but I sense that in a solo setting she seems to want to play loud to really fill up all of the space in the room, and subsequently on the CD. I think I would like more of the spacious material that closes the last track and a bit less of the “fast and hard playing to see what acoustic effects occur” approach. I think I will still go along to her gig if I can make it anyway as I suspect this material would be great witnessed live.
A day off tomorrow. Maybe I’ll get some more catch-up listening done and some more design work completed. I finished the first draft of a design last night as it happens, and am waiting on the musician’s response. I always hate these waits, as necessary as they are. I just want the musicians to say “yeah that’s great” and to be fair they usually do, but I still hate waiting. Oh well.
Edit: Something really weird here…! For some reason this post keeps appearing with Phil Julian’s name as the author! This is despite the fact I do not know Phil’s password and couldn’t possibly have posted under his name even if I had wanted to!! I even deleted the post, logged out of WordPress, logged back in again and reposted the piece and still the same thing happens. Oh well it can stay under Phil’s name for now then….! Odd