Piano Day 2019 is upon us. Normally I tend to shy away from things such as this, as while it does bring the attention to the instrument it can lead to a deluge of music which may be better heard in isolation rather than trying to pick through the multitude of release and discover. The two artists featured today have been covered here before and have a proven track record. Without further ado…

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The relationship between Dominique Charpentier and this blog has been around since the early days when he was one, if not the first, to contact me and send me his release (in fact it was this very one). It has been a joy watching and listening as he has developed over time and is growing in recognition. That said, he did warn me in the email that came with this release that “Careful! It is very different from what I usually do”. While it is a bit of a detour to his previous work , it still has his stamp of quality.

“The Chrysalis (“Chrysalide” in French) is the second growth’s stage of a butterfly before it becomes an adult. This is exactly what this EP is: the first official release of the artist’s attempt to blend the pure sound of an acoustic piano with the evocative power of the synthesizer and other electronic instruments, in order to create an original and deeply personal musical texture. Whether he uses the piano as a classical instrument, as a drum kit or a bass, it remains the underlying theme of each composition. This new release is neither purely modern classical or electronic, but a bit of both, as the genre wasn’t a decisive aspect of the project. Instead, the composer decided to focus on the experimentation process of the musical creation to reconnect with the pure joy and fun happening behind every creative process.”

“Chrysalide” is a four track Ep with a total length at just under eleven minutes. Within these Eleven minutes Charpentier mixes his fluid and emotive playing with an extra dose of ambience woven into the fabric of the pieces as well as on others the introduction of more electronic elements. The opener “Terre” should come as no surprise to those following him about the cinematic nature of the music considering his foray into film work with “The Cakemaker”. It effortlessly mixes emotion and mood with delicacy and intent. It also shares in Charpentier’s preferred raw style sounding piano. Despite the opening piano lines “Air” is more an electronic beast, one that mixes retro sounding futurist synth, light percussion and prog sounds with pounding beats and contemporary electronics. The introduction of this style makes it a clear destination for Charpentier to venture towards in future releases as he is able to balance the elements and the individual intensities nicely.

“Mer” balances his original style and new explorations nicely and reminds me of the release by Given “Piano Improvisation/Electrical Interferencies” with the difference being that Given is/was a an electronic musician taking on the piano as a major instrument, rather than the opposite way with Charpentier. It shares a similar balance of light and darkness with “Air”, but more in line with his cinematic style than heading for the dance floor. Just when you think you may have an idea of where you are heading he mixes it up with the chopped up and wonky rhythms of “Feu”. A skitter almost ska like feel to the track bringing forth a kaleidoscope of sound that dances and pulses around you and mixes playful with experimental, ensuring that you don’t fall into the same trap.

Five releases have now been covered in these humble pages and I can’t wait to see what Charpentier brings us next. Totally Recommended.

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The last time Norwegian pianist Lars Jakob Rudjord was on this blog was for the Kid Koala Remix of “Horizont”. Since then he put out the standalone single “Lullatown”, a slice of delicate late night considered Modern Classical. For Piano Day he has unleashed the three track “Arpeggio” Ep.

“Acclaimed pianist/composer Lars Jakob Rudjord is one of very few acts on the Norwegian Neo-Classical scene. With Arpeggio EP, he’s following up his latest single Lullatown and Kid Koala’s remix of his track Horisont. With a more conceptual approach than before, yet still with a soothing, intimate and melodic  sound with a sense of eternity, the EP features 3 different versions of the title track. Arpeggio released on Nils Frahm’s Piano Day 2019, a global event celebrating the piano and everything around it. Lars Jakob Rudjord has two solo albums under his belt already, and is due with more singles this year before his new album drops this fall.”

The three tracks on this ep all clocking it at just over four minutes each, come from the same source material, but each have their own personality. Due to the nature of the title of the EP I have assumed that the original influence is the title track, which interestingly closes out the EP. It is an interesting thing to have three versions of a track as each shows off a different style and can summon up different moods when listening to each one, but they also have a core that runs through and connects them all together.

The opener “Warpeggio” has a crystalline sound with an adjoining instrument that I can merely guess at what it is, that shares a similar tone. The feel of the piece reminds me somewhat of Clint Mansell’s soundtrack work (in fact the “High Noon” soundtrack which has this mix of feeling like it is a contemporary take on something from the 1960’s) mixed with Air’s “Virgin Suicides” soundtrack. I get this feeling of suspense, a bit of uneasiness and a heightened feel to the piece.

When “Harpeggio” enters the picture it feels like layers have been taken off in comparison to “Warpeggio” and we are left with a pure Modern Classical piece. There is a lot of control to the piece in that the tone is kept rather similar with occasional flourishes into emotive parts. There style is a hint of cinematic nature to the piece especially within its final minute, but for the most part it feels like a deeply personal and introspective work.

If  layers had been taken off “Harpeggio”, then “Arpeggio” finds us a ground zero, a fragility piece with a cold tone to it. Those elements that work through the other two tracks still work here, but what we are experiencing is a bare piece and because of this it feels more emotive. The playing feels like a mixture of delicate mixed in with some forceful stabs in the way that the keys cry. I would be curious to discover the origins of the piece and to see if I was on the right path in assuming that this is the source piece.

The “Arpeggio” ep is a good experiment at taking a piece of music and giving it iterations that expand and reveal either something new or a different approach. It also hints at directions that the musician can travel. Speaking of directions, if Rudjord decided to further venture into sounds like those which make up “Warpeggio” then I will happily tag along for the ride.

You can find more info via Lars’ website here and the Fyrlyd label here.

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