As a website with writers in a minimum of three countries at any one time (it’s a bit like the designated survivor policy, we’re not allowed in the same place together), we’re great believers in international co-operation. The latest example of ‘hands across the ocean’ is The Amsterdam Sessions, the result of a visit from Stockholm-based Fabian Rosenborg (Klangriket) to Sjors Mans in his Amsterdam studio. So Sweden to the Netherlands isn’t that great a journey on a plane but, pleasingly, the results being released by new label on the block, Piano And Coffee who are based in Lima, Peru – a full six time zones away.
It’s not where you’re from, as the saying goes, it’s where you’re at – and Piano And Coffee have quickly established an identity for their label which should enable them to curate interesting and unpredictable projects for years to come. The coffee element presumably ties in with enjoying a slow, contemplative cup while the piano-centric neo-classical music plays in the background, although a herbal tea would suffice equally well. There have been three releases from the label thus far, all worthy of your attention but The Amsterdam Sessions caught our ears the most – probably because of the combination of the classical and electronic offered an intriguing mix of styles, that you might not have expected from this pairing.
Individually, Sjors Mans and Klangriket’s works are usually centered around solo piano pieces, on the edge of ambience and fleshed out with found sounds and atmospheres. Together, on this mini-album, they do things a little differently. There’s plenty of piano on the opening track, sure, but then they bring in a viola and cello duo to flesh out “Hamerstraat” and “Leidseplein”. Then, the centrepiece “Prinsengracht” opens with a Tangerine Dream-esque pulse and a slow, synth, chord. It’s a surprise but not an unpleasant one, and it makes sense, too. After all, if you’re in a studio for four days, it makes sense to play with all the toys available rather than stick to the instrument you are best known for: that’s the point of collaboration, improvisation and experimentation. The closing “Zeedijk” strikes a balance between electronic ambience, and splashes of piano to complete the circle; it’s an edgier, more urban take on the Eno / Budd collaborations of the early 80s.
The Amsterdam Sessions gives all the impression of being a fairly low-key release – it’s only five tracks long and the title is somewhat prosaic – but the combination of the complementary talents of Klangriket and Sjors Mans results in a far more creative and varied work that might have been expected. It’s a tribute to the power of collaboration and an auspicious start for Piano And Coffee. (Jeremy Bye)