Piano Trialogues consists of three tracks, each of which features Etienne Nillesen on extended snare drum and Nicola L. Hein on prepared guitar accompanied by either Eve Risser, Magda Mayas, or Marta Warelis on prepared piano. In other words, three trios, three pianists, three tracks, one alluring album.
Although this unconventional instrumentation attracted me to this release in the first place, I really had no idea what to expect. Was this going to be the type of hyper-minimalist production that Creative Sources relentlessly pursued for some years? Or, was it going to be noisier, like David Tudor's interpretations of John Cage's music for prepared piano? Would Eve Risser (or Mayas or Warelis) step to the fore in the manner that has propelled her rapid rise or was this really a Nillesen-Hein fronted project? Or, was I misreading the situation altogether?
The three tracks on Piano Trialogues involve extended techniques, non-idiomatic noise making, and the kinds of sound oscillations that make droning soundscapes worthwhile. Consider this album some hybrid of those and the deconstructive school of free improvisation brought under a finely focused microscope through which one can sort through the chaos and discern the ridges, valleys, intersections, and accidents that comprise the whole. From a distance, one might hear the menagerie of scrapes, pulses, brushes and bangs as a jumbled unit. Up close, however, one distinguishes the fine textures of the three pianists exploring the prepared piano from the inside out. One notices the fine and deliberate percussion lain by Nillesen, sounds that range from a rolling ball-bearing (or fluttering ring?) to sharper creaks and other coarse, jagged, and muffled clatter. As the listener's ear wanders, Hein's deconstructivist guitar work emerges out of the haze. So do striking moments of unanticipated activity, such as Warelis' (I think) temporary assumption of a walking bass line plucked out of the piano's body and broken stride in the second track, or the eerie disjointed lullaby Mayas stumbles upon in a grippingly quiet section of the third track, or what sounds like Risser dropping a bocce ball on her piano strings in the first track. The result is an album of intimate three-person tęte-ŕ-tętes examining sound as friction, and music, in its now battered traditional sense, as a concept still being defined, if not already dispensable.
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