A clinical approach to the piano is always dull, no matter how good the composition, but infused emotion is always alluring, even when the compositions are simple. The strength of Anna Rose Carter is that she feels what she plays. Her emotion generates resonance; repetition becomes a means of mood-building, rather than a crutch. But no matter how good the player, solo piano often benefits from accompaniment. This is where Christopher Bailey comes in. His contributions are subtle, but deep. By miking the instrument’s innards, adding reverb, and splicing in a few additional sounds, he adds depth and context, making the piano seem much more than a wooden box in a hall. This first becomes apparent at the very end of “Explosions in a Four Chambered Heart”, as the quiet whooshes of the background rise into a brief bass hum.
Sonic Pieces’ Monique Recknagel has an ear for piano talent. Previous releases from Nils Frahm, Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka attest to this helpful instinct. “Bellés Jar” is akin to Frahm’s work on Wintermusik, and its tender tonal shifts make it an early album highlight. Perhaps this affinity inspired Frahm to contribute the mastering; or perhaps it’s simply that everyone in the Sonic Pieces family seems to be friends. “Capsules 11” flourishes with floral scales followed by single dark notes, a sign of the album’s expansion into the experimental realm. A midpoint plunge into the atonal comes as a surprise, but Bailey’s backdrop makes it work; by the album’s center, his intrigues become the foreground. After basking in the sputtering spotlight, he bows, tips his hat, and invites Carter to reclaim center stage. Her skills become especially apparent in the fractured final minutes of “Messy Hearts”, in which disjointed keys crumble in a series of light electronic bursts.
Moon Ate the Dark is a solo piano album that is not a solo piano album, from a solo piano artist who is not a solo piano artist. The solo illusion is cast by attention to adornment, rather than to accompaniment. Bailey brings out the best in Carter, but he’s no mere adjuster; without him, the album’s surfaces would lack lustre. The duo achieves together what they could not do alone, justifying their collaboration in dark red tones. (Richard Allen)
Release date: June 8