The surge in popularity towards Modern Classical or piano based music can largely be attributed to the likes of Nils Frahm, Olafur Arnalds, Stefano Guzzetti, Bruno Sanfilippo, Library Tapes and others with their inspirational works of the last decade and a half. Essentially they re-framed the piano and brought it into a modern context. With such changes in popularity in the instrument there will be a surge in people inspires by those names mentioned above. Sometimes this can contribute to a glut in a particular style and artists have to create a point of difference in their works for them to stand out. This the final of three releases that have been covered over the last few posts, is a perfect example of artists putting their own stamp on their music and showcasing the beauty that is inherent in this form of music
The Russian Dronarivm label’s contribution to the Modern Classical has come through releases by Endless Melancholy, Bruno Sanfilippo and Lorenzo Masotto. Their latest pairs Sven Laux who released “Paper Streets” on the label and Daniela Orvin, who impressed me on the Whitelab Rec’s “Sleeplaboratory 1.0” compilation.
“Around a similar time to the release and creation of ‘Home’, Sven had been creating some tracks for an album and felt that there was something missing. After casting his ears over Daniela’s work, he realised that piano was the missing piece of the jigsaw that he had been searching for in the album he had been culminating. He invited Daniela to his studio, they walked through what had been created up to that point and she became inspired to the point that they began to work together. The process was very intuitive as piece by piece their own styles collided effortlessly into what has become a completed album project.
‘The Writings’ plays out in the exact order in which the tracks had been worked on, providing an accurate account of the studio time in which these stories had been etched. During the process, Sven and Daniela became friends and the concept of the album itself has become about collaboration itself. “
The album is part collaboration, part compilation and part call and response. Opening with Laux’s “Being Too Optimistic”, the track fuses modern classical influences with shimmering and droning strings, alongside ambience and washes of static. There is a calmness to the track that would be perfect paired with footage above and through clouds. The music has an aerial feel, it is light and floating, but not crystal clear. Laux balances the tones and sense of movement nicely so it never gets fixed in one space.
“Fading Light” the second of three solo tracks on the album from Laux leans more to the experimental electronica style of things with a Modern Classical/Drone influence. The music is rather free form in a certain way while still having the influences of sound, not necessarily looping, but passing through. The tones are dark which is the result of the combined static pulses, string drones and also electroacoustic sound sources. The feeling is that Laux is constructing a cavernous soundscape which is sucking out the light, it is somewhat damp and claustrophobic.
For their first collaborative track “Same Situations, Different Perspectives (Part 1)” Laux and Orvin build on the feel of the first two tracks mixing in the darker drone styles of “Fading Light” , combining the floaty ambience of “Being optimistic” and venturing further into the Modern Classical side with tensile strings and fragile piano tones. The intensity and scope of the music increases with the trajectory of the piece. There is a fluidity in the tracks construction that involves building on what has come before, but not repeating it. It keeps the piece moving forward and constantly evolving in an almost structureless way.
The second collaboration “Friends” is a pure form of ambience mixed in with a bit of detritus and found dialogue. The tone to the piece is pure melancholy with the drones being long, linear and dripping with emotion. the pace is suitably slow which allows the pair to extract all the emotion possible. Not to think that this is without hope Laux and Orvin allow a tiny bit of hope and light to enter the piece. It feels like the soundtrack to reflection, whether it is negative or looking forward and is the type of piece that I find to be the perfect style to listen to as it almost welcomes you to look inside to yourself or take stock of life.
Orvin’s first solo piece “Unfolding Skyline” fuses dark piano tones with bubbling electronics that run counterpoint to the piano, and shuffling beats. Part futurist, part Modern Classical, it’s a track that you would imagine seeing in a film like “Blade Runner”. There is a sense the unknown, of anticipation of something about to happen. It also reminds me of a similar tone to the works used in “Stranger Things” and some of Oneohtrix Point Never’s soundtrack work.
The album’s title track and third collaboration shows the fusion of the artists sound. From Laux’s strings to Orvin’ piano and the other tones that lie in between. Gone are the electronic influences that have made their presence know on the previous track, in their place is a pure piano meets drone work. Suspense is central to the piece as is the weight of the strings and the deft touches of piano. These two elements result in more than the sum of the parts. The duo also are not afraid to use silence to create the track. Unlike “Friends”” the length of the parts are shorter which removes the melancholy that was the core of that track. This piece doesn’t feel like it has a narrative to which you can pin it down to, opening itself up to personal interpretation.
The fourth and final collaboration “A Moment of Silence” starts with Laux’s string drones before centering on Orvin’s piano. Like I mentioned above about a call and response, this is what this track feels like with Laux setting the tone of the piece with his string drones and having Orvin follow his lead with her ambient tinged piano work. As much as both styles compliment each other, they also contrast with each artist giving a flip side to the particular piece of music. While the initial parts are separate, the duo come together in the final stages of the track to meld their parts nicely.
Laux takes on their first collaboration “Same Situation, Different Perspectives” with “Part 2” . It strips Orvin’s contribution, reduces the length and re-frames the attention of the listener to the power of the strings. The ambient core and watery piano are removed which brings somewhat a different type of clarity to the piece. I can’t put my finger on it whether it is a reprise, a continuation or a stripped back version of Part 1. If I was a betting man I would state my money on the latter. But that said, both versions work very well and expose different sides to the music. The first part has a more lush feel, while the second part has a sense of urgency and heightened emotion running through the piece.
“Daniela Orvin brings the collection to a close with “Sudden Departures” which ends the album on a high note. Lush retro synth drones slowly emerge like a fog drifting over the early dawn. Slowly they pick up in size oscillating gently with a warm hum casting light over the proceedings. Multi layered they combine to float and soar and feel like they are about to take off as they reach great heights, before they gently dissipate.
There is something for most curious fans of these types of genres, be it Modern Classical, Drone, Electronic or Ambient. It could be the solo tracks or the collaborative pieces that take your fancy. I initially had one (tiny) criticism which was the more electronic influenced work like Orvin’s “Unfolding Skyline” stands out because it a great track, but thematically is a bit out-of-place compared to the other material. But then I can see a bit of it within “Sudden Departures” so it doesn’t stand out too much in reflection. “The Writings” is an enjoyable album worthy of deeper listening.
“The Writings” is available on Limited edition Cd (150 copies) and Digital.