Anthony Pateras ~ Blood Stretched Out

Try to visualize the album’s title, Blood Stretched Out, as a concrete image. Not only does it have a trace of the macabre, it also presents a substantial impossibility, in the sense that you cannot stretch out a liquid. Still, the image is a powerful aid in terms of what Anthony Pateras does with the piano as a molding tool that gives its melodious sounds a percussive character and its more percussive clustering undertones a soft, graceful edge. Divided into two long tracks, the album takes two different sculptural approaches to the same thing, first via minimalism and then an improv-like atonalism, pitching the two great modern traditions into a common ground of flows.

Repetition is at the core of the shaping exercise of “Blood Stretched Out”, the first track, a minimalism that recalls Lubomyr Melnyk’s concept of the continuum as much as La Monte Young’s deep explorations of the instrument in his Well-Tuned Piano, another composition that even as it is played out has no discernible form. This contradictory malleability, arguably unique to the piano, brings the materiality of sounds directly into the dialogue between playing and listening as an experience of constant fall-out, of not being able to truly ascertain when (never mind where) the sound begins or ends. Precluding the existence of silence, the piece never seems to stop, and it leads the ear throughout what feels like a never-ending horizon of tones, the infinite waves of a meditative inertia.

While “Chromochromatics”, the second piece, is not at all repetitive (at least in comparison to the first), it does have a certain structure that allows the listener to pick up a few key short themes that are picked up at various times throughout the duration of the track, and which are mixed and re-mixed as forms that nonetheless seem to build up into nothing, inasmuch as the piece avoids any conventional sense of progression or development. This is what grants it an improv-like quality in which the structure is contradictorily flexible, an uneasy flow that contrasts with the sea-waves of the first track in which the sheer mass of notes drives the piece variously through moods and ambiences with ease. There is no grand uniform motion here, it is precise and short-lived, thoughtful instead of mindful, active almost to the point of aggression.

In other words, where “Chromochromatics” is jagged, sometimes silent, “Blood Stretched Out” is filled with ease of movement and constant tones. Structure and flow become twins with very precise particularities, parting from the pairing of direction and form; the first piece feels like a formless venture in a direction drawn out from its melodious aspects while the second one feels like a directionless setting up of much more definite forms. Nevertheless, both tracks bring together form and direction in a manner that makes it hard to clearly distinguish between them at all times – in the end, the wide inertia of the first track is as illusory as the almost obsessive character of the second’s narrowness, if only because they are both composed pieces performed live, not the subject-less product of a natural occurrence.

Blood Stretched Out belongs in the vast tradition of exploratory piano albums, and it is its agility what makes it both so puzzling and so attractive, a device from which to know the instrument even better, from even more unexpected angles. (David Murrieta)


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