Carlos Cipa: All Your Life You Walk
Carlos Cipa's sophomore effort more than lives up to the promise of his 2012 debut effort The Monarch and the Viceroy—if anything, it exceeds expectations. Conceived as a concept album, the hour-long All Your Life You Walk is designed to be experienced as a whole, even though it features fifteen separate tracks, six of them fragments. But what enables the listener to easily experience it in the manner intended is that, firstly, almost every piece flows into the next, and, secondly, the musical character of the material, whatever differences there might be from one piece to another, is consistent throughout.
Currently studying contemporary classical composition in Munich, Cipa certainly comes by the multi-instrumentalist tag honestly. He's a pianist first and foremost, of course, and on the album he plays grand and upright pianos, but he's also credited with guitaret (a rare instrument built by Hohner in the 1960s), bass guitar (an old Framus model from the ‘60s), marimba, glockenspiel, Bavarian hackbrett (aka hammered dulcimer), oceanharp, and percussion instruments, as well as “an old radio receiver from [his] grandparents.” Don't get the wrong idea, though: All Your Life You Walk is a contemporary piano album, above all else.
After initiating the album on a pensive note with “Fragment #1,” Cipa turns his attention to a romantic style more representative of the project on “And Gently Drops the Rain”; in this case one could be forgiven for drawing a parallel between All Your Life You Walk and Michael Nyman's The Piano, given the elegance of the piano playing and the longing expressed by Cipa's plaintive music. Bolstering the impression of seamless flow, “And Gently Drops the Rain” segues without pause into the longest piece, “Hang On to Your Lights,” an insistently questioning rumination whose ten minutes Cipa fleshes out with marimba and other colourful accents. At times, Cipa disrupts the flow with a radical shift in presentation as occurs when the pianocentric “Secret Longing” is followed by the percussion-only interlude “Fragment #2.” In other places he combines the two, such as during “A Broken Light For Every Heart,” where dramatic piano playing is supplemented with marimba. The expansion of Cipa's soundworld into realms beyond the purely pianistic is surely one of the recording's biggest accomplishments.Some of the album's most powerful pieces are the ones that are quiet and delicate. Understated settings such as “Secret Longing” and “Step Out From Time” impart strong emotional effects in expressing themselves so restrainedly; in fact, the sparse chords with which Cipa concludes the latter might constitute the recording's most exquisite moment. The generally melancholy spirit of the material can often be ascertained by titles alone, among them “Today and It's Gone” and “Nowhere to be Found.” Aside from his abilities as an instrumentalist, Cipa's other major strength lies in the composing department, as is convincingly shown in the calibre of the material on the album. The songs are understandably classical in tone, yet they're songs that are melodically engaging and accessible.