Denovali is truly an artist’s friend. Once again, the attentive label is releasing a brand new album by an underexposed artist while concurrently re-issuing an earlier work. The latest beneficiary is cellist Sebastian Plano, whose debut album, Arrhythmical Part of Hearts, will finally see worldwide distribution alongside new work Impetus. Nils Frahm is involved, of course, and the early comparisons to ‘Olafur Arnalds are accurate. Impetus combines cello, piano, percussion and light electronics in a manner reminiscent of Arnalds’ early work; Plano’s nearly imperceptible, wordless vocals operate as an instrument on a couple tracks, unlike those heard on Arnalds’ latest.
The strength of Plano’s music is in the shifts. The Argentinian artist typically sets the mood with layers of strings before bursting forth with a change in tone or tempo. This tendency is evident as early as the opening (title) track, which begins with cello and synthesized seagulls and slowly adds chimes before confidently plunging the piano into the mix at 1:41. But by 2:30, the track has begun to slow; we can even hear Plano’s breathing. A minute later (3:38), the piece seems to be over, but then the ivories, now obviously miked, introduce a new sub-movement. The cello takes over for a bit, then retreats, allowing the piano to wind down like a music box. This dance continues throughout the album, the instruments complimenting each other like clouds and sun.
This particular sub-genre of music – accessible modern composition – has become quite popular in the past few years. Neither new age (the shallow end of the spectrum) nor avant-garde (the deep end), it has helped to draw listeners into the larger field of classical music, which spans centuries. This is clearly a good thing. The test will be to see how long the trend can continue without saturating the market. When Plano adds touches of tango, we cheer inwardly, knowing that such distinctiveness will be necessary for longevity.
Each individual track is lovely, although as a whole the album might have benefitted from a more restricted palette. While the shifts are exciting (perhaps the best arriving at 1:16 of “Blue Loving Seratonin”), one wishes Plano would cut back on the electronics more often. The two-minute “In Between Worlds II” is the only piece to highlight the work of strings alone, yet it’s one of the most effective, while the best piece, “All Given to Machinery”, ironically restricts those very machines to the opening minute. As Plano continues to move forward, we encourage him to find his own path, venturing where others have not yet trod. (Richard Allen)
Release date: 20 September