Sunday, 23 October 2011

Minimal Piano: Robert Haigh and Machinefabriek's Sol Sketches

Minimal piano albums by 'home-listening' composers are a dime a dozen and usually dull as dishwater, but so inoffensive, calm and polite as to make antagonism seem unnecessarily harsh. Nonetheless it is easy, lazy and indulgent music, and itself largely unnecessary when there's so much old music to discover and rediscover. Given the vast volume of the stuff being churned out, I'm not alone in finding minimal piano music particularly enjoyable.
One such artist I've only just been made aware of is Robert Haigh. He's a firm Satie devotee, borrowing liberally in places, but respectfully, and only the most 'Satie-esque' stuff - those modal suspended patterns that define the Gnossiennes and Gympnopedies (No one seems brave enough to take on the late-Satie of Parade or Socrate).

So it's certainly lite, but never pathetic, and successfully avoids any George Winston new-agey Muzac comparisons, just. Apparently his 1980s releases are where it's at, but those from 2008-, such as Written on Water and last year's gorgeous Anonymous Lights show a return to form. Just avoid those in between, as he slathered awkward breakbeats over them and called himself The Omni Trio.

Machinefabriek's Rutger Zuydervelt demonstrates his knack for acoustic simplicity with Sol Sketches, a series of supremely reduced piano miniatures released in advance of the documentary film on artist Sol LeWitt they soundtrack. Zuydervelt looks to Morton Feldman and specifically Ligeti's infuriating Musica Ricercata, basing each sketch on mere handfuls of notes, with subtle processing allowing notes to continue to sound long beyond their usual decay. This gives them a form analogous to Akira Rabelais' Satie and Bartok deconstructions Eisoptrophobia, or Jonathan Coleclough's excellent Period, but Zydervelt is purer still. Even those pieces most reliant on processing, droning strings humming beneath slow, sparse triads, retain a minimalist purity absent from all but the most refined compositions, like Arvo Part recorded in an anechoic chamber. Those with some cash to spare ought to shell out for the limited 4 x 10" vinyl release + bonus eraser, as the artwork matches the beauty of the sounds.

No comments:

Post a Comment