Ghost Flute & Dice ~ Kropsbygning

One pauses for a moment, uncertain how to proceed.  Tentatively, gingerly, one begins to unfold the flaps of the CD cover, and is rewarded with three-dimensional cut-outs.  The Danish word kropsbygning means shape, structure or spacial arrangement, and the cover is a physical representation of the music.  The fact that it was cut by hand connects the artist Mikkel Almholt to his audience.  Tactile elements were also important on the last disc, which was held together by a taut wire.

Experiments in shape and structure are applied to the music as well.  This is no ordinary piano album, but an exercise in prepared piano and “cut-up effects”, the pun perhaps intended.  While moments of melody are dusted throughout, the majority of the music is impressionistic, creating mood miniatures.  One begins to think of the moniker Ghost Flute & Dice in components, concentrating on the final word.  To prepare and play a piano is in effect to roll the dice; one never knows what one will encounter.  And this should be the album’s joy; but midway through “Kelser af Kina” (“Emperor of China”), dark chords send the project toward the shadows, creating a curious dichotomy: the fun on the one hand, the fear on the other.  Perhaps this is the ghost of which Almholt speaks.

And then there’s that chalked creature on the cover, a rattled, electrified outline that playfully imitates the music.  While the set is rife with abstraction, it does contain a core: the swiftly struck notes of the grand piano.  If a grand piano were an animal, and it could bristle, it might in fact look like this white on black image, its colors copying the keys.

The most telling title is one of two in English:  “Wrong Is Here”.  Yet it begins and ends as the most “right” track, showcasing church bells that toll singly and together as atmospheric washes swirl about.  The title winks toward associations of “wrong” and “sin”, but implies that this innovation is the kind of wrong that may be right, twisting theology into a maddening conundrum.

“Undersult” (“Hunger”) is the album’s darkest track, a percussive piece whose tribal tones bleed tints of Taiko drums and gamelan.  The piano notes are twisted into new shapes in service to an unfamiliar structure.  And yet it all works.  Those who hunger for unusual geometries will find the right formulas here.  (Richard Allen)

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