A joy to any reviewer is the bite sized chunk release. A release that is short in length or in track number and one which sets a tone and packs a punch. These five releases very much fit the above description.
Enzalla is the Milan based Vincenzo Bellanova and he describes one of his recent releases, “Oceania” as “a three track collection inspired by the arctic sea with minimal, desolated soundscapes and melodies with a bit of orchestral elements. The tracks have been almost entirely made with my Op-1 and a few other elements.”. It is a sound that is quite different from his previous two track single “Garden” which is a solo piano release with Downtempo beats and retro sounding synths appearing on track. On “Oceania” Enzalla offers up three brief, cold infused pieces that embrace Modern Classical, Glacial Ambient and Electronica. Bellanova ensures that the feel of the music, from the art through to the instrumentation is in line with it’s vision. There is a fragile, delicate feel to the pieces that evokes warm sunlight over a frosty environment, which is noted on the piece “Svalbard”. The quality that stays with me after listening to the pieces is the gentle subtly to the music. There is a frosty approach not only to the feel of the music, but also to the instrumentation making the sounds blur.
In comparison, the two pieces that make up “Garden” – “Harbour” and “Outside” are quite different to each other as they are “Oceania”. “Harbour” reminds me of one of the tracks by the short lived Australian duo Soma as it mixes in a downtempo beat with melancholic piano. It as this offbeat feel due to the rhythms contained in the piece and definitely adds a different dimension by framing away from what you were expecting. “Outside” is the only near pure piano piece I have heard by Bellanova. In keeping with the title field recording from the ocean are buried deep within the piece which offers an introspective feel. It could just be the style of recording, but it also evokes the coldness that he would explore later on “Oceania”.
Since these release Bellanova has also released the two track “Elegiae” single and has a collection of short releases worth checking out. Both “Oceania” and “Garden” are Digital only releases.
“Minihi is the creative outlet of percussionists and composers Zands and Louise Anna Duggan. Together, they create a uniquely percussive take on contemporary instrumental music by blending mallets, piano and bell-like textures with earthy drums and bubbling synths. The London-based musicians construct vivid soundscapes where the classical palette intersects with the world of groove and electronics. Their debut track ’Tokaido’ was released by Deutsche Grammophon as part of “Project 12” in May 2020
Hallowed Halls was written as a homage to ancient or enchanting architectural spaces. When you walk into some buildings, the sense of history living within the walls and very fabric of the building is palpable. Generations come and go, lovingly maintaining their most cherished spaces to exist within a world they will never know. The piece combines the sound of an old orchestral keyboard instrument called the celeste with various synths and bell-like textures, and a repetitive groove built from a traditional Irish drum called the bodhran. Louise Anna’s voice is also used within the texture to create a sense of it reverberating within the space. The track has taken on a new significance recently, with all the concert halls, theatres and gathering spaces worldwide that lie dormant, waiting to be filled with life again.”
Minihi, which translates from the ancient Breton French as Sanctuary offer a sound world I am not too familiar with. Deeply percussive, the piece has a flowing nature and one which investigates and covers so much territory. Both musicians have a wide and varied musical history with names like Lady Gaga, Thom Yorke and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and others littered throughout their respective CV’s. “Hallowed Hall” is most definitely within the classical sphere, its is just not the one you’ll probably be most familiar with. With such an array of instruments and influences, Duggan and Zands create a mystical world that feels suited for a dance piece or acrobatics (think Cirque du Soleil). Electronics flicker about in this multi layered dense piece which despite being highly percussive it doesn’t feel over leaden with beats. Rather the two musicians weave themselves a piece that anticipates something more. As it is a precursor to a full length debut later in the year you get the sense that this piece is very much a taster for what is to come. The way it ends especially you could see it leading onto a track that explodes with intensity. The use of Celestia shines through as does the bells, drums, electronics, piano and Duggan’s ghostly operatic voice to create a piece that moves through distinct various movements with an even flow.
“Hallowed Hall” is a Digital release via the German label Unperceived Records which has been home to releases from the likes of Jacob Pavek, Kryshe, Niklas Paschburg, Anne Garner and label boss Hannes Kretzer.
“Bruno Sanfilippo’s third On-line EP “NAIPES”. Inspired by the ludic experience through the game, this mini album was written and recorded during the confinement of the Covid-19 pandemic on April 2020, in his Onix II Studio-home, near Barcelona.”
By now you know that whatever you are getting from Barcelona based pianist Bruno Sanfilippo is not going to disappoint. in a world packed with talented composers and pianists Sanfilippo holds his own. “Napes” which translates to “playing Cards” hence the cover art and imagery present four pieces of solo piano that has been analogue mastered by Ian Hawgood. Inspired by the spontaneous and playful nature of card games, Sanfilippo offers pieces of music that have a combined sense of innocence, playfulness, light and romance. Sanfilippo is more than adept behind his instrument and his use of a natural close recording style accentuates the quality of both his playing as well as the various timbres of the piano and gives the pieces a rhythmical touch. In a way the EP is split into two camps. The opening duo “Diamante” and “Trébol” are slower paced pieces that work on more melancholy and shade, while the final two pieces see Sanfilippo increase his pace and exude warmth and tenderness.
As usual it is a tough choice picking a favourite piece as they all hit the mark quite nicely. “Naipes” is a Digital only release and will not disappoint fans and attract a few more.
“When classical pianist Jan Gerdes and electronic musician Frank Bogdanowitz aka Dr.Nojoke met on a rooftop party in Berlin they immediately hooked up. First musical improvisations led to serious examinations in sound, melody and rhythm with references to contemporary, minimal, romantic music, jazz, ambient, drone, clicks, glitch and club-music. rand’s first EP now presents three early pieces, that explore synaptic potentials, a time-space texture full of suggestions – mysterious and slowly winding like in Voodoo River, scanning frozen moments like in Disabled Seconds or feeling days with no goal like in Tragically Hip. It may be sung in the post-cerebral continuum.”
I was drawn into this EP with it’s cover which reminded me from anything from a bootleg release through to a split single hardcore sleeve. Musically it is very much far away from that particular sound instead coming across as an experimental release colliding with a Modern Classical and Glitch led one. Usually with an opening piece a tone is set or a series of an ideas are presented. This is sort of the case, but not really on “Disabled Seconds”. What you get from this piece is that the music will come from an abstract perception and not that the remaining two pieces will be clones. Utilising space, silence, electroacoustic frameworks and tones, rand take minimal piano notes and re-purpose them into a sound world that has a eerie and slightly ominous feel. You get the sense that this collaboration isn’t just about taking their respective musical experiences and joining them together. Instead you are catapulted into their own distinct world. The moniker the duo have chosen has an open meaning and can represent such things as a form of currency, a border or margin or even a piece of leather which is part of a shoe. It is the possibility of these meanings that inspired Gerdes and Bogdanowitz in their music (although I would probably lean towards borders/margins as it seems apt in their music).
The second piece “Voodoo River” has a noir-ish feel which is exemplified by both the jazz style piano which moves fluidly and the timpani like sound that provides a pulse. It follows on nicely from where “Disabled Seconds” started taking it into a more score like feel. The final track “Tragically Hip” sees a perfect balance to both their styles with Bogdanowitz’s “clikno” style and Gerdes jazz influnced piano. The track is probably the most conventional of the three, but when placed up to anything else, would still be quite abstract. The way that it is more electronically styled adds a new layer while still exploring the sound world that the two musicians are creating for themselves. You get a strong sense that from the outset of their introduction to each other that experimenting and exploring sound from a sound art perspective was important as much as it was to fuse their styles.
“I” is rand’s first offering but they already have a second EP ready for release and a full length album ready that is in search of a suitable home. If abstract electronics meets jazz like modern classical piano and then some, then “I” will suit you. “I” is available digitally.