This EP arrived in our inboxes just as a few flurries were beginning to fall. It’s been a slow and strange winter in New York, with hardly any snow. The overall feeling is that something is missing. Something was meant to happen, but it did not; an expected visitor never arrived. This creates the perfect atmosphere for For Snow , an endearing three-part effort that is part pensive, part sparkly, altogether inviting and warm. This isn’t the snow of avalanches, blizzards and winds, but that which gently falls, glistens, graces mailboxes and trees. It’s the snow that one appreciates from the safety of one’s living room window while wearing slippers and sipping hot tea, watching bunnies and fawns: the ideal snowfall that lives primarily in the imagination, but invokes dreams.
Alex Kozobolis works under different guises and often varies his sound within guises as well. His work under his own name often contains ambient washes and field recordings, and at one time included vocals. I’ve always preferred his pure piano work, which is what is found here. When one can play the piano – really play, not just string together a few notes and repeat them in pointillistic fashion – then the addition of lesser-developed elements can diminish the power of a recording.
For Snow is improvised work, but it does not sound improvised; it possesses form, direction and flow. Kozobolis is especially good at knowing when to pause like a break in the storm and when to expand into a quiet cloud of white. He infuses his music with feeling through dynamic contrast, a widely overlooked technique that marks the difference between the suitable and the strong. One can often sense him reaching tentatively for the next note or chord, then revisiting it more confidently. All the while, one can hear the keys, the occasional shifting hammers, sounds that only a few years ago were excised in the studio in order to produce a “clean” but clinical sound.
The warmest feeling is produced by the ticking of a grandfather clock, which can be heard throughout the recording but is most prevalent on the final track. This clock happened to be in the same room as the Furstein piano Kozobolis used for this recording – the same setting used for last year’s Songs from a Distant Summer. That EP was recorded in the midst of the London riots and operated as a quiet call for peace. As the clock counts seconds like a wise metronome, it seems to be saying that seasons will come and seasons will go, violence will visit and violence will pass, but some things – eternal truths, the comfort of objects – will remain. (Richard Allen)