Monotonous broken piano chords
Composed by Sylvain Chauveau and performed by pianist Melanie Dailbert, ‘Life Without Machines’ is a minimalist piano collective. Inspired by Barnett Newman’s abstract black and white paintings The Stations of the Cross, Sylvain has created equally difficult to tune into minimalism too.
Each of the 14 tracks follows a very similar pattern. They take either a single chord, or a chord and a couple of notes and Dailbert slowly plays them note by note. Each track feels mechanical whilst the piano itself is sparse, warm and beautifully tuned. I was expecting the album to grow and develop into more of a theme over time but instead of growing in musical tones, the album then strips this back further.
Some tracks barely reach 30 seconds as these sometimes just play a few sparse piano chords. In another track, a tiny single sho-like synth note rings out. I would say that the album is meditative but the chords and notes used often evoke a musical question. It feels more inquisitive than relaxing. There is one sole exception to this album and that is the final piece. We are greeted with an 11-minute transition from piano to bird song and distant dog barks via drone synths. It is pretty but it doesn’t feel earned. I couldn’t hear the machines and noise beforehand to feel like the calm was warranted.
I get that the point of the album is to pull back to minimalism and that ‘Life Without Machines’ chooses to do this with music. It is just that I couldn’t personally find a way into the work to make it stick or make me feel anything. Instead, I felt like this abstract collection spread too little too thin. Perhaps I’ve missed the point. Minimalist piano lovers should give it a try though but maybe this has made me realise pure minimalism isn’t for me.
Recommended track: 14.en
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