Happy Piano Day! Piano Day was launched by Nils Frahm in 2015 and takes place on the 88th day of the year. Many global events now take place on this day, along with album releases. The Kitchen label has been especially attentive, releasing Ivory on ivory-colored vinyl. Zinovia Arvanitidi is no stranger to the label; she’s also half of Pill-Oh, whose Vanishing Mirror we reviewed back in 2012. With Ivory, she seeks to make a name for herself as a solo artist, and we have no doubt she’ll succeed.
Aëla Labbé’s cover image is enigmatic. While there’s no piano in sight, there is still ivory, along with a sense of contrast. In a second shot, the artist holds a desert rose in front of her face. It’s a subtle way to advertise that the LP is about opposites: ocean and desert, light and darkness, hope and fear, translated into ivory and black. Fortunately the darkness of the album is more melancholic than frightful, walking the line in “Inattendu.” The music flows like the sea, cycling through tides like emotions, circling back to a form of peace. In “Invisible,” the surf is a quiet but noticeable presence.
For a while, Ivory is solely a piano album, beginning with the opening of the keylid. The performer’s creaks and rustles are apparent. This warm technique is now so common that we wonder at the fact it had once been considered unwelcome. The artist writes that “one of the most difficult and challenging things for a composer is to create memorable music with a melodic quality just by using simply one instrument, such as the piano.” But she does bend a bit. Eventually strings are introduced, and in “Fluttering,” wordless voice. At this point we cannot help but think of Enya (meant as a compliment). The combination of elements is cinematic yet soothing, exposing Arvanitidi’s experience in film.
“Parting Ways” is the album’s saddest selection, as one might glean from the title. At the start, all the other instruments have gone away, leaving the poor piano alone. And yet she plays her forlorn melody, and gains new friends. The track bears a soft electronic witness, like a blanket of consolation: and then it blooms. The strings, the strings! You haven’t left me after all! This knowledge carries her through to the end, as Arvanitidi leaves the keylid open, ready for a swift return. (Richard Allen)
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