This is the first full-length album from Berlin-based cellist and composer Martina Bertoni, after a couple of EP’s- although at 37 minutes, you’ll wish this album was longer.
Relatively purist cello playing sits at the heart of each piece, predominantly long low drawn-out notes of a kind that are stereotypically used by film composers to portray barren landscapes or end-of-act-two hopelessness and sorrow.
But the electronics and atmospherics that surround the cello are far more than a simple framing device, and absolutely shine in their own right. “Stuck Out Of Lifetime”, in second position, comes as something of a surprise when you’re anticipating near-ambient work and a gentle ticking rhythm arrives, a subtle but powerful structural move that keeps crucial energy running underneath the slow melodic work. “Impossible Routines” is a half-step further in the electronica direction. Darkness, perhaps the titular ghosts, are an undercurrent here rather than a dominant force, with pieces like “Invisible Cracks” brooding and gently ominous yet still retaining a sense of melodicism and calm, largely thanks to the cello.
Only a couple of the pieces top the five-minute mark and there is a certain sense of static vignette at times, each piece representing an environment or an idea and not progressing within itself. There’s no harm in that in itself, but it does sometimes leave you wondering where tracks like the gently pulsing “Principles and Petals” would have gone if allowed to take a longer and more in-depth journey. “Notes At The End Of The World” is notable thanks to its spoken-word element that serves as a kind of postscript- although when an instrumental album has let you wander off in your own imagination whilst listening, sometimes last-minute words can seem somewhat unwelcome as they can contradict where you’ve got up to in your head.
There’s a delicate underplaying throughout this album and I’d hope in future releases that Bertoni could be a little more ambitious, but I would certainly still recommend this album overall. If this is what the quality of albums is going to be like in 2020 then we’re in for a great year.