Bryn Harrison - Vessels [Another Timbre - 2014]Vessels is a lengthy submersion in stripped-back and melancholic modern classical solo piano composition…think a less sophisticated & more simplistic take on Morton Feldman, and you’ll get an idea of what to expect here.
The release comes in the form of a CD on Another Timbre- which is a fairly new Sheffield based label, which deals in all forms of improvised and contemporary music/ sound. The CD comes in a fairly stark mini gatefold sleeve that features on it’s front cover a continual flowing liquid stream of lentils, or some other similar type of pulse.
The 76.03 minute piece on offer here is composed by minimalist British composer Bryn Harrison, and played with great concentration & focused repetition by pianist Philip Thomas. The work started off as a 22 minute piece which was premiered by Thomas in October 2012 at the Firth Hall in Sheffield. And seemingly for this CD version the tracks repetitive & stark patterns have just been extended on, and on, and on.
The track is built by a pattern of seemingly continual descending, yet stationary series of piano notes. This stark structure creates a very tangible feeling of stuck melochiolca, looped grief, or repetitive grey descent. Clearly Thomas is a highly talented pianist, but I’m still in two minds about Harrison as a composer….you see, I’ve played this piece maybe four or five times through it’s whole length, then another few more times some way through…and each time I come away feeling differently, so that makes this quite a difficult release to gage/ review.
I seem to switch between either been impressed & gloomy hypnotized by the tracks locked glum descent. Or feeling that the whole things a little too repetitive & bland for it’s own good, due to too little rewarding structure or compositional flare. And really as I play this once again for this review I’m still feeling very torn by the track…unsure if I like or not.
So here’s the tricky bit- the summing up/ final thoughts on Vessels…I think the whole thing is played with great concentration & minimal flare by Thomas, so I’d be most interested to hearing him play another composers work. But as for the tracks composition & structure- it’s certainly a valiant attempt at trying to re-capture that distinctive feeling of hypnotic sadness & melancholia stasis, which many of Feldman’s celebrated compositions tap into, but for the moment I’ll say that Harrsion isn’t quite there yet.Roger Batty