I love the piano. I love the piano more when it’s being toyed with into more unusual situations – not necessarily a prepared piano, but you can tell when a composer is having fun and trying out new ways to make the ivories tinkle. Enter Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch with her second full-length” album where she moves into a darker and more experimental tone of piano composition – and I wholeheartedly approve.
“Martello” opens the album like a psychological drama. The notes often clash over each other to give a sinister touch to what is a delicate and at times uplifting piece that always returns to the diminished key phrase. It’s cinematic and effective. “The Only Water” moves into an icy ambience of strained violin and bowed sound effects before evolving into a dread-inducing dirge march of echoey bass strings. “Redux” is possibly the most standard composition on the album as the track which starts off a bit stooped and limping unfurls into a fluttering pitter patter of notes and waves. It’s a wonderful melodic piece that when placed with the underwater sonar like soundscape of “Overflow”, makes you appreciate when Emilie is melodic.
“Fracture Points” is a tense piano piece that focuses on a slight glitch where a note seems to come too soon in the beat. Soon more and more notes join that offbeat note and they become more detuned and dominant in the melody. It’s like a dark disco dance-off but using singular notes on the piano. It’s not an immediate piece but after repeated listens, it really took its hold on me. “Bleuets” is a beautiful higher register track that reminds me of a ballerina dance. It has a skip to its step, even though it has that French lament you often her in French songs that want to roll down a chord structure rather than up it. “Ultramarine” is almost industrial with its thundering bass note and echoing machine chugs. Throughout the album, I get an underwater vibe and here I feel like I’m in a submarine that’s buckling under pressure. The bent string arrangement is great and adds to the tension too. “Epoques” has a real sense of wonderment to it. The right hand is constantly hammering out chords that won’t sit still and it creates a magical hugeness to the track itself. “A Touch of Salt” is a stop/start string arrangement that felt a little too much like incidental music for me to get into but with that single bump aside in what is an experimental album, that’s good going! The album closes with the haunting “Morphee” which interplays creepy piano chords with a throbbing synth that doesn’t change from its single note pitch. As the music gets quieter or more intense, the synth throbs overtake it until a beautiful string arrangement bursts in for the final moments to give a sense of gravitas and nadir to the tension beforehand.
Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch has created a fascinating album in Epoques. It most certainly will not be for everyone, not even all piano lovers. If your someone whose looking for someone whose straddling the fringes of avant-garde but always pulls it back to a melody that makes sense before you start to worry, this will be the perfect album for you.
Recommended track: Epoques
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