Dubbing his third album ‘Retronyms’ as an expansion of his classical piano palette, Carlos Cipa returns with an aptly titled ‘alternative chamber ensemble’. This highly unusual but alluring modern classical album revolves around a few key tracks but often I found my favourite sections to be the bits in between.
‘Retronyms’ is an eight-track album that alternates between short-form and long-form compositions. Whilst you may come for the 13-minute epic ‘Senna’s Joy’, you’ll be prepped and outro’d by the tracks either side and it is an interesting set up when you listen to the album as a whole. ‘Senna’s Joy’ will possibly be for many the standout track on the album as it is so cinematic. Opening gently with reflective but warm piano, strings, soft brass and tuned percussion, around the seven and a half minute mark the joy takes flight. Here the strings soar, the piano and brass work in tandem to provide a bass pulse and the whole piece shines. It’s in complete contrast to the gentle tenderness of ‘And She Was’. This seven-minute tinkle of the ivories is beautifully understated and its the kind of the piano song you could have on repeat for an hour and not notice.
Elsewhere later on in the album, Carlos Cipa moves into more gentler ensemble music that reminds me of artists like Manos Milonakis. Whilst ‘Slide’ at 11 minutes does hit a euphoric finale, ‘Dark Tree’ and ‘Paon’ move to a gentle jazz scene focused on creating a mood. Both are subdued but carry sparks of joy and hushed comfort in their own ways.
However, it is worthwhile noting the three very short tracks count as some of my favourite moments on the album. Opening with ‘Fanfare’, it is as is a brass arrangement has been played down a swinging cable rope or has its life sucked out of it. It’s a curious ambient piece that I really enjoyed, whilst ‘Ambsmi’ is an ice-cold shivering string solo that feels tense and taut. My favourite is of all is ‘Mame’ though. It is the echo of a piano pitter-pattering away at a decent speed that simply fades in and out over a two minute period. It reminded me a little of Heinali’s distorted piano work which is probably why I fell in love with it on first listen.
Carlos Cipa has made an awkward beauty with ‘Retronyms’. At times too brief, at times given all the space a composition could ever want, it is one of those albums I needed to ponder on and digest before fully appreciating. Modern Classical lovers should snap this album immediately, as should those that like the Icelandic ensemble movement or Gypsy Classical as I call it. It feels like a small handful of musicians went on a journey together and this was their story. Intricate, meditative and beautiful.
Recommended track: Senna’s Joy
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