Playing a series of lost, well-worn images on a silent screen, Stories Of Disintegration runs without the need of a projectionist, relaying an old photograph for an audience of just one. Swoop And Cross (Portuguese and London-based composer and musician Ruben Vale) has found music to accompany a grey January day, and the lightless weather fits its inclement mood.
Rainy piano notes give rise to languid, bleary-eyed melodies which repeat and then subside, slowly morphing into another day and another grind and another rush hour to contend with. In spite of the world’s outer chaos, the introspective world of the music slows everything to a crawl: this is life, played in a minor key and on half-speed. Raindrops spatter windowpanes. Grey clouds never seem to lift. Red is the reigning primary colour as the heavy traffic locks up the road. Undulating umbrellas pirouette on the bland and uneven staging of the pavement. It’s easy to forget the smiling blue of the sky in the middle of a cold January day. But this album is all about remembrance, recollection and nostalgia.
Faint electronics support the piano, bringing some added weight to its Valentine melody. The opening melody hasn’t forgotten its past, because its romanticised notes play on and on, echoing with sublime grace. Ghostly tails of reverb linger in the wake of the piano, trailing something of itself behind, like the outer lining of a skirt or a loved one’s hand reaching out into the dark.
She says: things were once better.
She says: remember me.
She says: keep going, my love.
The whole album deals with the delicate subject of memory and loss in a sensitive way, be it loss of place or of experience, of loved ones or of emptiness, of things lost on a breeze and of times never to return. The piano is an eternal echo, in step with the chill of the air. The music is both a gentle lament and a valued keepsake, because even though its sparse notes hint at incomplete feelings and unarticulated words, you know of a certain truth in your heart – you have been loved.
Careful and contemplative, Stories Of Disintegration haunts the heart with a sad-but-appreciative exhalation and its outpouring of a sought-after recollection. It lives, to some extent, in the past, at first musing on and then slipping silently into its bygone, black-and-white world, a world where things were once brighter and happier. Things have been stained in Game Boy greys, but your presence is a splash of colour, and it returns when the music plays, lifting both the heart and the January gloom. There’s beauty in the sadness. (James Catchpole)