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Stavros Gasparatos - Expanded Piano [Ad Noiseam - 2015]

Stavros Gasparatos plays a spacious, minimalist and thoroughly considered style of modern classical music, sure to lull the mind into a restful, contemplative state.  The album title "Expanded Piano" brings with it expectations of new usages or creative realms from the piano, and therefore brings to mind prepared pianos and John Cage.

Notes and melodies played using the piano's natural unaltered timbre appear on about half of the album.  Lush, unhurried consonant chordal sequences and aquatic harmonized melodies are the first sounds to appear, with a romantic yet restrained poignancy.  "Vincent", the album's intro track, is heavy with emotional longing and anticipation, emerging into triumphant major from initial despondency.  This piece is quite cinematic, a soundtrack to brooding while helplessly waiting.

The album does include quite a bit of prepared piano, as well, particularly during the many extended passages in which a dimly reverberant metallic rattle or snapback resounds in a patient, periodic loop.  During these sections, the pace of the music slows, Gasparatos' mind locked into this meditative circular configuration.  A glint, a shimmer is heard faintly in the distance, a strange wooden creaking, and straining, croaking.  The feeling becomes greatly more surreal and avant garde; this sections could be called musique concrete or even industrial, with its tape loop-like rhythm.

Gasparatos has a way of winding sparse zen-like melodies through these soundscapes, injecting carefully chosen individual pitches into each section of the soundscape.   The note choices throughout the album are multifaceted and intelligent, with a great lasting value.  There is a questioning, existential feeling, a sense of awareness and exactness, of spiritual focus.  It has the quietude of uneventful solitary moments.  The mind floats through dreaming cloud formations in weightlessness.

The production is warm and ear pleasing, sounding exactly like listening to the man play in a darkened theater, where the listener is seated with some distance from the piano, and the smoothing character of the room can enact upon it.  The sounds are bright, immediate and acoustic in origin, with all the richness and depth that comes with that.

I highly recommend this album.  A great disk for reading, or the end of the day, with great replay value.

Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5

Josh Landry
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