Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Stefan Aeby - Piano Solo (Intakt Records, 2019)

The first solo piano album by Swiss pianist and composer Stefan Aeby isn't quite what you might expect from a young musician. It's an audacious melding of the acoustic piano (played inside and out) and inventive use of electronics that can move the music in exciting new directions. Erroll Garner's "Misty" is soft and spacious, with notes hanging in space and the melody gently hinted at, gradually developing into a patient and thoughtful improvisation. The music develops some more propulsion from the lower end, filling out the performance as the sound grows wider before fading back into the finale. Prepared piano and electronics come into play on "Dancing on a Cloud," where the sound of the instrument becomes radically changed, almost harp like at times. Electronics offer opportunities for delay and modification of the pitches and lags of the notes, creating an alien and fascinating soundscape, where acoustic piano can improvise over prepared or evolving electronics. "Flingga" has a bouncy piano opening, feeling lush and decorative, with percussive chords meeting lighter runs of notes, then diving deeper into a harder and faster segment before letting up on the gas for a pleasant parlor-like finale. The electronics and altered instrument return for "Singing Witches," a deeply atmospheric track, with the sounds oscillating and varying in pitches and frequencies and creating a disorienting effect. The overall sound is haunting and alarming, like something you might hear upping the anxiety level in the soundtrack to a suspenseful film or video game. "Subway Run" delves into the guts of of the instrument and then uses the computer to alter the sound even further to create large slabs of sound, that come zooming in from different angles. Lending the music to a late night dystopian vibe, trapped underground in the tunnels and frantically moving with this suspenseful music as company. Darting jabs of laser toned sound compete with the larger blocks of deep bass rumbling behemoths. Chattering electronics and plucked strings are used on "Mr. Pong" creating a unique and unusual electro-acoustic effect. Burbles of electronic sound, repeat and refract, as the sharp plucked notes come into play followed by the use of the altered keyboard like a mad scientist at work trying everything and getting a fascinating result. "Running Deeper" is a short track of frightening dark repetitive electronics with the occasional hammered piano note adding to the anxiety of the performance. The liner notes state that Aeby’s first this album is the product of three and half years of hard work. You can hear why when you imagine what would have been necessary, composing for the piano and the computer and combining the two organically in the studio. Piano Solo -

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