The discography of French composer Wilson Trouvé (Monochromie) is comprised of lush releases that incorporate elements of ambience, drone, electronics and post-rock; his last album was given the deluxe treatment by Time Released Sound. And so it’s ironic that his best release to date is a digital-only EP of piano works. Yet here it is: Winter, a timely seasonal statement and a showcase for the artist’s skills.
Trouvé’s strength is the piano; he defines himself as composer and pianist. But until now, his strength has been clouded by other instruments. Returning to Colors In The Dark, one can hear what happened. The piano is always present, but the notes are slow, separate, and reserved, as they must be to make room for the other timbres. A cloud of drone covers the sonic field; an ambient wash frosts the ivory cake. “Ballade” provides a hint, but the track is the exception. The concluding two minutes of “Constellations” demonstrate the artist’s skills, including an ability to accelerate the pace; but since the keys avoid the foreground, the effect is buried.
Monochromie’s textures have always been a key part of his work. With these textures removed, the piano becomes not only the focal point, but the only point. The clearest difference is in the tempo, as the nine parts of Winter are as fast paced as flurries: dancing, sparkling, twirling in the wind. Trouvé alternates approaches from track to track, as the left hand is sometimes moving swifter than the right, sometimes slower, sometimes evenly paced. A third, more fluid element is introduced on numerous tracks, operating as a bright backdrop, alerting us to the presence of multitracking (unless Trouvé has an extra hand, which we would certainly know about by now). With Wil Bolton at the mixing desk, it’s hard to tell. The difference here is that the piano is backed by another piano, instead of by other instruments, preserving its purity. Monochromie’s previous albums sounded full, but this EP sounds pristine. This is how a winter album should sound: un paysage de blanc avec des ombres légères. The unusual cover reflects this idea as it intimates the presence of the black keys without showing them.
At 24 minutes and change, Winter is less an album of tracks than a seasonal suite. Thanks to internal consistency, it’s easy to play two or three times in a row. Should the EP have been longer? Not at all. But we do hope that Monochromie will consider a full album of piano works, alternating the swift passages of Winter with the spare beauty of “Ballade”. We’re glad this light is no longer hidden. (Richard Allen)