Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Jonathan Coleclough - Period (2002)

Another fine ambient record from the UK experimental scene, this time relying solely on the sounds of Bluthner grand piano for its source material. I am always intrigued by albums which severely restrict their sonic palette, and the piano is my favorite instrument, so I picked this up on a whim.

The bulk of the album is the fifty minute title track, rounded out by a remix done by increasingly prominent engineer, Colin Potter. The result is something like Harold Budd in slow motion. I know what you're thinking: "But Harold Budd is already really slow!" Yes, that's true, but this is even slower. Don't go looking for any melodies or harmonic progressions. This is sound for sound's sake (try saying that five times fast.)

In fact, it's more like a drone record with occasional punctuation provided by the piano keys. The resonance of the piano is remarkable, and if you turn up the volume (which I recommend you do) you can hear the subtle interactions of the sustained tones as their frequencies rub up against one another. The low notes are particularly dramatic in this regard, made more so by their relative rarity. Coleclough seems to prefer the tinkly upper register in general, perhaps because too many low notes would overly muddy the sound. Sixteen minutes in, Coleclough gets boreed and fades everything out, choosing to start over, with different note combinations. This results in a slightly different drone texture, somewhat lower and richer than the first.

While this piano drone is pleasant, it's not really the most engaging ambient record I've heard. The point is well made about twenty minutes in and there's not enough evolution or variety to warrant the additional half hour. However, it's worth it for Colin Potter's remix, in which he edits out the piano attacks, leaving a much more ethereal (and of a more appropriate length) web of shifting tones. The fact that you can no longer identify the piano as the sound source makes the remix a far more interesting listen.

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