Last year, we reviewed Bruno Bavota‘s Apartment Songs and Apartment Loops, noting that each EP was technically a Volume 1 and would “be joined by its other half somewhere down the line, with the possibility of a mega-release in 2021.” Now that time has come! One might consider the separated halves soulmates, separated by COVID restrictions, finally reunited. Alternately, one might regard the project as a look forward and a look back, like Janus. There’s great perspective involved in hearing one part of a lockdown project during lockdown and the other part at the tail end. The reception involves relief, as well as an inventory of all that is lost and perhaps gained: at the very least, this album (along with all the other art produced during this period), but also a sense of fragility, a new immersion in the now, stemming from the knowledge that it can all be gone in an instant. This knowledge has always simmered in the background of our minds, but during the last year and a half, it has surged to the foreground.
Perspective also comes into play while revisiting our 2020 review, recalling where we were at the time. Today’s post, like the album, is a reshuffling, involving earlier material and bonus material, an expansion of sentences mirroring the inclusion of extra tracks. The new, brighter cover reflects a sunnier mindset, the 50/50 representing whatever the viewer may choose: the earlier tracks and the newly shared, the songs and the loops, 2020 and 2021.
Bavota began recording these songs while stuck in his apartment in the early days of the pandemic. The first apartment song jumps swiftly into the melody with miked keys, projecting confidence and calm. The second song is like a soft graduation march, a reminder of the ceremony many students were not be able to experience in person. The song is a gentle wish for peace, perhaps played for people in other apartments, dreaming of life as it might have been.
Wistful is about as sad as Bavota gets, but it’s comforting to know that even the most centered of composers was dislodged by the pandemic. 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. Initially, the slow “#7” was both ending and mid-point; in the new context, it becomes the lynchpin to the second half of the first record. There are now thirteen apartment songs instead of seven, a reminder that last year, we thought the crisis would be over by now. Then it kept going; we dug deeper into our reserves: emotional, financial, creative. Through this lens, one might regard the enervated “Apartment Song #9” as resignation: we’re going to be in this for a while.
It’s interesting to hear these songs from a point of relative safety: vaccinated and waiting to travel. When immersed in the crisis, it was hard to discern the quality of releases that reflected current emotions. But now, these songs carry an even deeper resonance: time capsules exquisite in their poignancy. By “Apartment Song #11,” Bavota is searching for the sun and finding it, perhaps even appreciating the sun all the more, as if for the very first time. And “#13” provides a more hopeful, romantic ending, one that could not have been chosen when we were in the midst of it all.
One would be forgiven for thinking Apartment Loops sounds like the work of another composer. Bavota substitutes synthesizer for piano, and the tracks are longer. Still, the switch from “Song #13” to “Loop #1” is more of a single step than a leap. In like manner, miked piano is replaced by static, but the positive tone remains. In the first Loop, a pulse is attached to occasionally abstract notes, contributing intimations of starry nights and SETI.
Bavota’s music normally falls under Modern Composition, but this second record 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. He tucks them in with deep bass, high twinkles and static like a snore. “Apartment Loop #3” becomes Bavota’s promise of a better tomorrow, unexpected good news, the end of lockdown.
These were the last notes we heard from Bavota in 2020, but this year there are three more loops: one more side. It’s fitting that the first new loop is dominated by a pulse. The world is aware of its own heartbeat, as well as the individual heartbeats that comprise communities and societies. We are, at long last, coming out of this. Whether Bavota was projecting his thoughts into the future at the time is unclear; but the timbre is perfect as a byproduct of emergence. This being said, the dark tone that launches the next loop is a reminder that other areas are not faring as well, and that we have paid an incredible cost. Thankfully, the album’s darkest loop leads to its lightest: a brilliant synthesized patch reminiscent of a field of sunflowers stretching to the sky. Due to its dynamic range, the album’s longest track is also its finest. The closing track expands upon its optimism. From this we might extrapolate that after all we’ve endured, Earth’s brightest days may yet lie ahead of us. (Richard Allen)