Tiento de las Nieves
Tiento de las Nieves (“Snow-Tiento”) is somewhat of a surprising release from Thomas Köner, who's built up a reputation over many years for his work as a soundtrack composer, minimal soundscaping artist, and, as a member of Porter Ricks, experimental dancefloor producer. The title itself requires some clarification: tiento refers to a kind of keyboard-based music originating out of Spain in the 15th and 16th centuries, which accounts for the piano-centric focus of the single-track, sixty-eight-minute setting. It's worth noting that a tiento operates more as a set of free-form guidelines rather than a rigid formal model such as a fugue or rondo to which the player must adhere.
The snow half of the titular equation can be brought into clearer focus by considering the text by Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen that's included on the inner sleeve and taken from Farthest North: Being the Record of a Voyage of Exploration of the Ship Fram 1893-96, and of a Fifteen months' Sleigh Journey: “Oh the beautiful white snow, falling so gently and silently, softening every hard outline with its sheltering purity! There is nothing more deliciously restful, soft, and white ... Love is life's snow. It falls deepest and softest into the gashes left by the fight—whiter and purer than snow itself.” Consistent with such words, Köner's music is similarly peaceful and delicate, and restful spaces stretch out between the reverb-scented notes. One key difference, however, is that while Nansen draws a connection between love and snow, Köner draws one between large white spaces and snow-covered landscapes.As might be obvious by now, the style of Tiento de las Nieves' music is reminiscent of Eno-styled ambient material in general and specifically a piano-based ambient album by Harold Budd such as Ambient 2 (The Plateaux of Mirror), one of Budd's collaborations with Eno. Tiento de las Nieves does not, in other words, present an extended exercise in virtuosic piano technique where dazzling, lightspeed runs are layered one on top of another. Instead, Köner uses the piano as a means by which to generate a long-form, time-suspending soundscape symbolic of a large white space, and the clear definition of the instrument's keys are offset by subtle swells of electronic tinting that accompany Ivana Neimarevic's piano playing. Her sparsely distributed notes punctuate the softly shimmering background in unpredictable manner, resulting in a pretty and soothing music that drifts unhurriedly from start to finish. Whether by accident or design, Köner's release is a superb realization of Eno's oft-quoted statement about ambient music, that it “must be able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular [and that] it must be as ignorable as it is interesting.”