Dominique Charpentier is no stranger in these posts, last appearing in April of this year with his album’s “The Cakemaker” and “Reminiscence”. In fact there is yet to be a work of his that I haven’t liked. This time around instead of his usual method of releasing his music, he has put out his latest album “Carnet De Voyage” through Italian label Memory Recordings (aka Memorec) which is helmed by noted pianist/composer Fabrizio Paterlini.
“In french, Carnet de Voyage means travel diary. But actually this album isn’t about things that seen or lived by the compose: on the contrary, it evokes experiences yet to happen and places yet to be discovered. It is an imaginary travel diary, a reverse journal looking towards the future to imagine what could happen when visiting these places and sharing time with loved ones or stranger.
“Sometimes we need time to look back and think about our experiences to understand better the deep meaning of our life”, says the composer, “sometimes it is the opposite, and this album is an attempt of this mechanism”. The album presents an ensemble of nine piano solo pieces, all of them composed in a very short time, one hour or less. This creative process forced the pianist to be very spontaneous and to compose musical pieces as if they were improvisations of the soul.”
“Secret Place” a moody piece that opens the album, which uses minimal phrasing and the timbre of the instrument to enhance the mood. After a considered start Charpentier takes flight with fluid playing that alters the feel of the piece slightly. You get a sense of travelling behind someone as they lead you to a special place, but with the mood being pensive, it’s not as if there is something totally positive about this journey. An intriguing start that draws the listener in with a hint of mystery woven into the piece.
“Raz Blanchard” named after a strait that is situated between Alderney and Cap De la Hague, this track was released as part of the pre-order preceding the album, the track has a certain degree of innocence and playfulness as mixed in within its slightly melancholic core. The playing feels internalized as if its been drawn out from personal experience. There are passages of slow, deliberate tension building as well as more fluid, expressive parts. As a whole, the piece feels as if a story has been told. When Charpentier hits it stripes around the one minute mark, it’s quite breathtaking.
“Le Bord De Mer Avec Toi (Improvisation)” Charpentier is fond of improvisations. The thing that makes these tracks so special is their immediacy. There is no long thought out gestational period, what you are hearing in these three minutes and twenty-six seconds are exactly all that was captured in the moment. Sounding slightly lo-fi, the piano has an earthy tone. Translated in English as “The Seaside with you”, you get the feeling that Charpentier is evoking memories (possibly from the travel diary in his mind) and in turn creating a piece that conveys these memories. There is nothing dark about the piece, nor does it feel to be one that returns back to earlier movements. This could be because of the nature of improvisation or simply the memories/feelings that inspired it were a lineal progression.
“Skansen” which translates to “Forecastle, offers a piece that under three minutes in length feels fully fleshed out. The track never lets up with its intensity or sense of purpose as it takes the listener on a journey of small twists and turns, like a trip through the countryside. Charpentier is consistent with pace and tone throughout the piece which makes it easy to be entranced by the piece and follow it through to completion.
“One Minute And A Half Of Peace” originally released as part of a two-track digital single in December 2017 and dedicated to victims of terror and war, the track has a sombre edge to it which evokes the feel of the piece and the title. That’s not to say that is morose or languid. It has the slow pace you would imagine a piece dedicated to the memories of people who have died. It manages to neither be too depressing, nor celebratory, more like offering the listener or those left behind music to contemplate their thoughts.
“Tea Time (Green Tea)” for some reason, maybe its the pace of the piece, or the sound of the recording, but I feel like we have gone back in time somewhat. There is a sense of romance and if my tiny musical knowledge is correct, a waltz like feel to the piece which adds to the nostalgic feeling. Charpentier knows when to precisely increase the intensity and sounds at the right points in time to achieve the feelings embedded in the track.
“Tea Time (Black Tea)” is it a coincidence that the darker the tea, the darker tone in the music? While the previous track felt somewhat nostalgic, this track feels in parts introspective and at other parts fragile. The tone of the piece also changes from darker through to lighter in a section that is almost whimsical and nostalgically infused. This track feels the more serious of the two and I can’t help but think of the tea change as being an influence on this, with the difference in the processing method of tea to give a different taste and stronger feel, much like this track.
“Berceuse d’ete” a Berceuse is a musical lullaby and this track which translates to “Summer Lullaby” has a relaxed airy feel. The music is like with gentle movements over the keys which are highlighted in a section of delicate playing that defines the second half of the track. The music feels like it is flowing and suits the title. The way it follows the two previous tracks shows the many moods that Charpentier can conjure.
“La Valse Oubilée (Improvisation)” aka “The Umbilical Waltz” Charpentier returns to another of his improvisations. In this track Charpentier mixes up pace and technique throughout the track, keeping the listener on edge. Starting off in the waltz tradition, the music mixes in romance with a captivating section of fluid movements, before returning to a slower, measured pace.
As mentioned before, Charpentier has a habit of either including improvised tracks or working within a short time frame to compose and record works. For a lesser composer/ musician this would potentially be a disaster, but for Charpentier, as evident by his steady glowing reviews through this humble site, actually acts as a catalyst to coalesce his ideas into consistent works of art. For the majority of his releases he has composed, recorded, mixed and mastered his own works. His releases have had a consistent sound and feel, a signature if you will. It would be interesting to see if he handed over his works to an outside ear and see what they could further extract from the recordings. The music that comes from piano based composers tends to be a mix of feelings, moods and intentions. This release is no exception, which is why I enjoy listening to such piano based music. “Carnet De Voyage” is available on Vinyl and Digital.