Compilations / Mixes
Beauty Becomes the Enemy of the Future
Thorsten Scheerer: Piano Pieces
David Newlyn, already known for the limited edition releases he's issued on his October Man Recordings imprint, now branches off into the realm of classical, semi-classical, and/or acoustic music with the aptly named label Cathedral Transmissions. The first release, Beauty Becomes the Enemy of the Future, is a twenty-five-minute mini-album of captivating beauty by Wales-based antonymes (Ian M Hazeldine). Think seven quietly ravishing and uplifting pieces with a front-line dominated by reverb-drenched piano sprinkles and ornamented by judicious splashes of strings, organ, electronics, choir-like murmuring, and assorted other atmospheric elements. The opening “My Salvation” sets the tone with sparse piano phrases heard alongside the gentle surge of the seashore and a muffled voice, after which “They Have Not Seen The Stars” pairs quietly pulsating starbursts and string washes in an ethereal ambient setting. A single listen reveals that there's a melancholy strain running through antonymes late-night music, something re-affirmed by track titles such as “A Heart Filled With Emptiness” and “La Fin De Tout.” Not a long recording, obviously, but what's here is certainly satisfying.
The second Cathedral Transmissions release is a ‘piano' album too though of a markedly different character. If antonymes' mini-set soothes the soul, Piano Pieces jolts one to attention with the aggressive force with which Thorsten Scheerer (an account manager in the banking sector in his day job) brings the material into being. It's an odd recording in a number of respects, the first being the extreme differences in track times (more on that momentarily), the second being that the album's material was recorded between 1990 and 2007 (Scheerer composed the grand piano pieces using Sibelius Notation software and Native Instruments Kontakt Player), and the third that bonus tracks and instrumental versions extend the formal recording's half-hour duration by more than twenty minutes. That “Bagatellenlied—Alles in Ordnung” (Bagatelle Song—Everything is in Order) is in eight parts makes it seem like a more substantial piece than its two-and-a-half-minute running time allows. With each of them averaging about twenty seconds apiece, the pieces end just as they've begun—miniatures in the true sense of the word. The text is spoken in German by Karolina Kos and without translations (English and/or French) provided—in the promo copy reviewed at least—one is in the dark as to what Kos is saying alongside Scheerer's pianisms. By contrast, the less breathless “Florenz 2.2” exploits its eleven-minute running time to spotlight a number of tempo changes and work in a number of pauses too. In general, the playing style isn't elegant, even when it would benefit from being more so (“Barcelona 1.3”); Scheerer instead opts for a heavy-handed approach where in the dense passages the low notes tend to blur together into clusters. The bonus track “Fluss” (River) changes the game altogether by conjoining Kurt von SuSo's German voiceover to an instrumental backing built by Scheerer using synthesizers (guitar and software), piano, and guitar. Extending the release by including a revistation (“Florenz 3.0”) and instrumental versions of earlier pieces (“Fluss,” “Bagatellenlied”) feels unnecessary and only makes the release feel disjointed and overlong. Here as elsewhere, less can truly be more.