Even after twenty years, Bruno Sanfilippo‘s sound continues to develop. In last year’s review of ClarOscuro, we noted that we liked the artist’s new direction: subtler electronics and supporting strings. The piano remains the central instrument, but a light dusting of sugar is better than a drenching of glaze.
As befits its title, Inside Life turns more introspective, its notes carefully arranged like rocks in a Zen garden, with incredible thought given to their placement. This move creates space for Julián Kancepolski’s cello, yet even the cellist respects the spaces enough not to fill them. The resulting stillness – or perhaps soft motion – evokes the season in which it was released, one of frozen lakes and barren trees. The two opening tracks especially fit this mold, and given their titles (“Sudden Quietness” and “Freezing Point”), it’s clear that the association is intentional. Winter is the introspective season, lending itself not only to the literal inside life (more time spent indoors) but to the intellectual and spiritual (time spent in thought and prayer). To the healthy, this can be a time of deep introspection and meditation; to those who feel that the sun has been stolen, it can be a time of anxiety and depression. “Old tapes” play repeatedly and threaten to undo one’s security. The deep counter-notes of “Freezing Point” offer the first inkling that something may be amiss; the icicle tones of “The Place Where Dying Crows” occupy the higher end of the scale, but provide the same impression.
On “Camille”, the plaintive voice of Mariel Aguilar pays tribute to Camille Saint-Saëns, and may be interpreted as either holy or haunted due to its yearning tone. It’s a kind gesture, considering the fact that Saint-Saëns once dedicated a symphony to Liszt. But what is the composer’s intention? The cover provides a hint: metaphorically, the image seems to symbolize direction from disorder. In like fashion, the mind may be a jumble of thoughts, an album a jumble of sounds; Sanfilippo finds the end of the piano wire and pulls it. This way, he seems to be saying. I can see the way out. On the title track, Sanfilippo himself sings wordlessly; the light will be returning soon. (Richard Allen)