If you are familiar with my musings, by now you know that although my interests span a variety of genres, at the end of the day I always return to my favorite instrument: the piano. I am a classically trained pianist, and although I still tend to play almost daily on my baby grand, my skill level is somewhat intermediate and I always look up to my favorite composers of the day. This is why I’m usually rendered speechless at a Nils Frahm concert, or a performances by Dustin O’Halloran, Goldmund, Hauschka, and Max Richter. After attending the Denovali Swingfest music festival in Berlin, I can definitely add Poppy Ackroyd and Carlos Cipa to that always growing list. Today, along with music by Bruno Sanfilippo and Library Tapes, I cover their latest releases which I’ve been playing for the last few months. Enjoy!

Poppy Ackroyd
Poppy Ackroyd prides herself on the meticulous source manipulation. Extracting every sound (except the field recordings) from her piano and the violin, Edinburgh based Ackroyd constructs seven beautiful pieces that showcase her interest in both, contemporary laptop processing and classical piano music. Discovering the world of sound “beyond the keys“, Ackroyd composes music that elicits every bit of essence out of her instruments. Using fingers, e-bows, and plectrums she plucks, strums, and taps out the stringed and percussive elements of her sound. But this concept is only the beginning. If you haven’t read this description you wouldn’t know the process with which Ackroyd creates her magic. The music easily swoops the listener into its cinematic, atmospheric and at times nostalgic world. With numerous layers, the compositions mimic an entire orchestra, where even the dampers of her restored piano turn into drums. “‘Escapement’ is the part of the mechanism in a piano that enables the hammer to be released, so that the string can vibrate once it is struck. It can also mean the physical act of escaping, and in the context of this album it refers to the release of emotions through the instrument.” Although Escapement is Ackroyd’s debut on Denovali Records, if you have witnessed Hidden Orchestra perform you would have noticed her behind the keys. As did I…

Carlos Cipa
The Monarch And The Viceroy
Carlos Cipa is only 22 years old, but he has been studying piano since the age of six. After being involved in many music genres, such as jazz, rock, and even punk (where he played the drums), Munich based Cipa decided to return to his roots. And we’re glad he did! The solo piano pieces are clearly influenced by all of my favorite classical composers. I hear Chopin, Debussy, Satie and even Tchaikovsky. Blending minimalism with grandiose and at times powerful chords, Cipa demonstrates his love and knowledge of the instrument, effortlessly taking control of the dynamics, complexity and the classical application of harmony. At the forefront of each recording is the skill with which Cipa executes each composition – this last attribute of the Denovali signed musician is especially prevalent in his live performance, the experience of which is a must. Cipa has recently performed with Poppy Ackroyd and Greg Haines, and will appear once again at Denovali Swingfest in Essen in October of 2013. The Monarch And The Viceroy is Cipa’s only first release, but it already shows much promise for the future works to come. Just like Nils Frahm, who seemed to appear out of nowhere on an obscure label, and then slowly became one of the most renown pianists, Carlos Cipa is charting out a course on which our paths will surely cross a many times. Definitely recommended!

Bruno Sanfilippo
Piano Textures 3
I first discovered Bruno Sanfilippo back in 2007, when this Galvani Conservatory (Buenos Aires) musical composition graduate released Piano Textures on his very own AD21 label which he co-runs with Max Corbacho since 1998. I somehow missed the second volume of Piano Textures which came out in 2009, but I am extremely grateful to Sanfilippo for furnishing the third! And if this is your first encounter with this Spanish composer, I’m happy to point you towards a limited and signed box set edition of all three volumes! But back to music. The subdued sequentially titled pieces explore the depth and multitude of textures that, to my continued amazement, can be extracted from the instrument. There is lyricism, elegance and poise in every single track, balanced with just a touch of post-processing with slight reverb and delay. The atmospheres are colorful and bright, at times complimented with field recordings of water, singing birds and strings. The eight compositions are rather lengthy in time, with most passing over the six-minute mark, allowing the listener to get fully engrossed in the melody, structure and sound. “My master used to say,” quotes Sanfilippo on the liner notes of the album, “on the lighted stage or in front of the awaken microphones, dream! Don’t be really there while you improvise, then you will make your audience dream as well.” I will surely take that advice…

Library Tapes
Sketches, Outtakes & Rarities
I have hungrily consumed everything from David Wenngren under his Library Tapes moniker, including his collaborations with Christopher Bissonnette and Kane Ikin. So I was excited to find out that from his vast collection of compositions, Wenngren was able to release a whole album of Sketches, Outtakes & Rarities. Just as the title implies, the album compiles twelve short pieces recorded at various times on which ideas are introduced, explored and possibly abandoned, only to be collected again for this digital-only release. On each barely approaching two-minute mark piece, one can imagine Wenngren slouched over his piano (and sometimes a music box), contemplating the next note to play. The approach results in a slightly abstract ambient environment of somewhat incidental music, that slowly fills my household with vapor and tranquility. Neutral in tone, confidence and simplicity, the melodies are a perfect accompaniment for your daily reflection, contemplation and deep thought. Besides this special gift, Wenngren has also released a two-part Les Revenants under his real name, which is a much different piece altogether. This, and his previous albums, such as Sun Peaking Through (2012), Like Green Grass Against A Blue Sky (2010) and I Made It For You (2012) can be found on his very own Auetic label, available for purchase directly from his bandcamp.