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Sunday, 12 June 2011

SubVersion Stop 132: Adam Walker - Piano Brain (Self-released) / Berg & Various Composers - 1951-1953 Archives (Naxos)

Everyone knows the piano has the most notes of any world instrument, but seldom are the octaves a cause for appraisal. With the guitar assimilated into pop psychology like a romcom for Teletubby ASBOs, there's small room besides the regularly snob-laden middle class market to impregnate lasting polyrhythmic incense. Even when the BBC invites late night entertainers like Jools Holland to welcome stand-in pianists or as part of a band, the limelight is binary: you're better off seeking attention from hitchhikers on a one way trip to the Rocky Mountains.

Incidentally Colorado, Adam Walker's home, doesn't typify the aesthetic of his stylistic grace. He's got the experimentalism of Greg Haines but it's less slamming in the emotional registers; an almost jazzy freeride along an ever-changing peninsula; sophisticated and loose at the same time. "Perihelion" builds its phrases like a political rally on galactic osmosis; forever polarising moods but never colliding temperatures, and as the more sober pieces follow you get the idea Walker has limitless delightful melodies at the tip of his fingers. If there's one drawback of this it's that "Piano Brain" is chock full of it so you're dazed for when the real drama hits your soul, with the aplomb he's clearly capable of.

The Berg recital is not lacking in this quality, despite "Piano Sonata Op.1" sounding like key freeloading for Superbowl juggernauts. Canadian classical giant Glenn Gould's piano has a keen ear for disharmony and it's rarely restful. One can imagine silent films at hyperspeed scrolling on a clear cinema. Coming to life on Naxos in company of great violin modernists including Gloria Coates, "3 Fantastic Dances (H.Glickman)" on Op.2 stretches the pizzicato out into oblongs of textural fretplay.

Albert Pratz' modest recording career up to his 1995 decease also doesn't show on "Romances From Ellis...", where a runaway love story violin coalsces beautifully against Gould's tenative piano cascades, then sprints to the wilderness for good old fashioned kissing-in-the-forest passion. "10 Pieces From Cinderella" closes this excellent set with reverb smattering the plucks, Gould nipping the acoustic headroom when he wishes. Buy with pride.

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