a closer listen

Dmitry Evgrafov ~ Comprehension of Light

Comprehension of Light was our pick of the season in Modern Composition, and a month later its nuances continue to be revealed.  This is a deep and diverse recording, thanks to the participation of Iskra String Quartet, William ‘Memotone’ Yates, Abul Mogard and Benoit Pîoulard.  More than this, its a testimony to the growth of Moscow’s Dmitry Evgrafov.  When he first appeared on the scene with the Lying On Your Shoulder EP, the teenager was seen as a prodigy pianist.  Evgrafov is now in his 20s, and while he’s made progress in each subsequent release, this is the first time we’ve been able to step back and appreciate him more as composer.  The guests are used wisely and sparingly, for depth and for punctuation, producing a variety of timbres; the piano doesn’t even appear until the fifth track.  When Evgrafov bends the ivories on the album’s only solo piece, he produces a similar spectrum: slow to fast, reflective to buoyant, restrained to unbridled and back again.  One can hear the distance traveled from his debut, not only in talent but in confidence.

Much of this confidence likely stems from the expanded tonal palette.  The synthesized strings of earlier works have been jettisoned in favor of organic strings, whose emotional range is wider.  Their impact is heightened by the fact that they don’t appear on every track.  Every time they return, they reach a deeper portion of the heart, and on the powerful, direct “A Chance to Change” they hit direct center, flowing like newly oxygenated blood.  “First Crop” continues in this vein, with major chords providing the first complete comprehension of light.  The album has been building to this revelation, moving from darkness and doubt to something higher and fuller, yet undefined.  But as much as we love the organic influence, we’re pleased to hear the rejuvenated subtlety of the electronics.  Whether foreboding (as they are in the early tracks) or enhancing (as they are in the digital-only “Through the Gloom”), they contribute a sense of disparate elements working together for the greater good.

Side B dances in glimmer.  One of the most beautiful images is found in the title  “Kintsukuroi”.  This is the latest Japanese concept to gain Western traction, following wabi-sabi, mono no aware and others.  The word refers to the fixing of pottery cracks with liquid gold, highlighting the brokenness as beauty.  The wider implication is that given time, we can be proud of our scars, as they become integrated into the stories of our lives.  Comprehension of Light operates in this fashion, introducing itself as wounded, then struggling ~ and succeeding ~ to become whole.  The pain is not hidden, but shared; not glossed over, but highlighted as it passes through the fire on its way to redemption.  The serenity of Evgrafov’s piano at the center of “Rootedness” demonstrates this newfound lightness.  Now we understand the album’s cover art: dust, debris and detritus expelled by an expanding burst of warmth and light.  (Richard Allen)

Available here