Monday, March 1, 2021
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Panoptique Electrical: Five Pianos

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Artist: Panoptique Electrical (@)
Title: Five Pianos
Format: CD + Download
Label: Sound In Silence Records (@)
Rated: * * * * *
Panoptique Electrical is Jason Sweeney from Kaurna County, Australia and 'Five Pianos' is his third album. As you might imagine, here he is a pianist and of course, being on the Sound In Silence label, the music is ambient. 'Five Pianos' is five pieces for a duration of about 38 minutes. These meditative compositions were written for recent theatre and installation works with the intention of creating space and quietness, as well as to thread together a prepared piano sound evocative of weather shifts, radio frequencies, pulsation of electromagnetic vibrations and a resignation to human sadness.

The first piece - "Spiral Song" is a simple little repetitive melodic ditty in 3/4 time that sounds like a rudimentary student exercise. In the recording you can hear every nuance the instrument makes, plus other ephemeral sounds, such as light noise(s) from an unknown source. If you listen carefully, there are carryover overtones that seem to enhance the melody, but I was looking for something more expansive here. "It Rains Tonight," which follows is much more minimal, and also much longer at 12:18. In fact, the piece is so minimal that it makes Harold Budd seem like Van Cliburn in comparison. Notes plunk down slowly in a repeating figure amidst some light noise that could be rain with some sustain on the piano and a harder emphasis on the first note of the figure of three most of the time, with an auxiliary tone some of the time. There is over twelve minutes of this, and if you are listening anticipatorily, it is bound to drive you up a wall. On the other hand, if you cease to focus (or focus on something else) it will just wash over you like Eno's "Airport" albums, albeit even more minimal than those.

It sounds like electric piano on "The Lighthouse," and not nearly as minimal as the last piece. The playing is somewhat muted, tones blend together, and the theme is melancholic downtempo, abstract, but melodic, and surely improvised. So far I'm liking this track best. "Doors Leading Where" is an episodic series of ascending low register tones, heavy on sustain. Final track, "Night Dance," seems to be the most fully realized piece on the album. It's rich, vibrant and kind of elegant. Great way to end this brief "Piambient" album. As usual with SIS releases, this is a limited edition of 200 hand-made, hand-numbered CD-r copies.

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