One of my punishments as a child was being sent to my room, but I didn’t mind, because that’s where my books and records were. During the recent pandemic, many musicians have had to stay at home, but that’s okay too ~ because that’s where their instruments are. Shelter-in-place orders have been a burden to some and a boon to others. More music has been recorded and released in the last three months than we’ve ever received before. We’re running out of new movies, we’re running out of new TV, new books are few and there are no sports to watch or play, but new music is plentiful.
Bruno Bavota has been stuck in his apartment in Southern Italy, waiting for the all-clear so he and his wife can walk by the seaside. Fortunately restrictions have recently been lifted. But in the meantime, he’s not only been prolific, but expanded his tonal palette. Apartment Songs is what one might expect from the composer ~ romantic solo piano pieces, each a bite-sized confection. But on Apartment Loops, Bavota goes electronic, trying something new, making the most of his lockdown. Technically, each release is a Volume 1 and will be joined by its other half somewhere down the line, with the possibility of a mega-release in 2021. But to play the two EPs as one album, Songs and then Loops, makes perfect sense in terms of trajectory; the segue between “Apartment song #7” and “Apartment Loop #1” is seamless.
The first apartment song jumps right into the melody, with miked keys. Immediately the listener can intuit confidence and calm. While many have struggled with sadness during the past season, Bavota seems to have focused on beauty and hope. No complaints here (except that the track is too short!) The second song sounds like a soft graduation march, a reminder that many students will not be able to experience this milestone in person. As such, the song comes across as a gentle wish for peace to be visited upon listeners at home, perhaps in other apartments, dreaming of life as it might have been.
Wistful is about as sad as Bavota gets, but it’s comforting to have one’s feelings acknowledged. The pace soon picks up again, as if Bavota is recording subdued elegies, not for things lost, but for things paused. Nostalgia is the new hope. It’s one thing to go outside and play, and then to return and write songs about play; it’s another to dream of play denied. Bavota is passing the time by simultaneously looking forward and back. The slow “#7” is both an ending an a mid-point.
One would be forgiven for thinking that Apartment Loops sounds like the work of another composer. To state the obvious, there’s no piano here. Bavota uses synthesizer, and the tracks are longer: only three, but each is longer than the three shortest apartment songs combined. Still, the switch from “song #7” to “Loop #1” is more of a single step than a leap. The positive tone remains, although the miked piano is replaced by static: a modernized byproduct. In the first Loop, a pulse is attached to occasionally abstract notes, contributing intimations of starry nights and SETI.
The cover art moves from black and white to muted color, from a single image to a split screen. Bavota’s music normally falls under Modern Composition, but this is ambient. The second Loop starts quietly before shimmering in the center: the sight of hundreds of apartment lights coming on as night falls and the people retreat to their homes. Nothing is open. No one is gathering. Once everyone is safe, Bavota plays them a lullaby. Finally he tucks them in with deep bass, high twinkles and static like a snore. “Apartment Loop #3” is the most uplifting track, like the promise of a better tomorrow, unexpected good news, the end of lockdown. Someday it will happen for us all. (Richard Allen)