Portuguese pianist/composer Simao Costa’s new CD explores the multiplicity of sounds available to a piano that has been prepared, electronically altered or supplemented, and even played in its native state.
The unifying theme that emerges from the seven tracks collected here is the richness of the contrasts that bind and separate the muted, low-sustain sounds of the prepared piano on the one hand, and the ringing tones and harmonies of the instrument unmodified on the other. Putting the two in motion with and against each other is something Costa does effectively throughout the set. Often, the music will take on the character of a gamelan or detuned carillon nested within resonantly pedaled left hand figures. On top of it, Costa will frequently layer in the acute hum of feedback and droning electronics. These timbral experiments are largely cerebral in affect, but surprisingly beautiful impressionistic passages are liable to erupt unexpectedly, particularly on the fourth and sixth tracks. The last and longest track shifts attention away from contrasts in timbre and resonance and focuses instead on the possibilities of rhythmic variations within a pulse, its deliberately narrow range of pitches wrapped in the buzzing and rattling sounds of distressed metal.