abstract Avant Garde composer Experimental piano prepared piano review samples technology

Jason Doell – becoming in shadows ~ of being touched review

Ripping the guts out of a piano and making it an ASMR horror show.

What does Jason Doell sound like?

Prepared piano, prepared to creep you out.

The review of Jason Doell – becoming in shadows ~ of being touched

Jason Doell has no doubt released one of the most abstract and obscure pieces of music in 2023. Using his prepared piano, Jason twists the very fabric of the instrument into notes and sounds that disquiet the mind by how detuned the music becomes. This is not an easy listen. It’s for avant-garde fans only.

photo of Jason Doell
Jason Doell

Three compositions span the nearly 40-minute run time of the album and each track is a variation on Jason’s composition process. Jason’s prepared piano is the central sole instrument. It plinks, clanks, smashes, strains and creaks under the strain of its player in a chaotic metallic way. Having sampled tons of sound effects, Doell transferred the recordings into an algorithmic composition tool he has been building. This allows the tool to select different noises, samples and effects depending on the parameters it is given and this is where the three tracks come from. It’s a fascinating merger of acoustic audio and technology that sounds human but bends the fabric of organic sound too.

The opening track ‘of being undisturbed’ has plodding trickles of piano that start tuned perfectly to a note and drifts off it. Each tone detunes subtly and evokes a dreaded unease as soft piano notes become more percussive and metallic. Then a smash or crash of the piano board or the guts and hammers of the piano ring out and still the weirdness just rumbles on. It’s the musical equivalent of a horror movie where the camera is panning in and zooming out at the same time in slow motion.

Jason Doell then replicates the same principles again for the other two tracks. ‘of becoming’ leans much more towards bowed piano sounds. They aren’t quite synth pad rounded but the overall piano tone is less harsh and more comfortably numb. The closing 18 minute ‘of being touched’ sounds like the piano is being brushed or combed. The squeals, squeaks, combed buzzes and creaks of the piano guts sound like a metallic twine snapping under its own weight. Hidden in the background is that same algorithmic creepy piano as detuned as ever, decaying in your ears. As the piece gets more aggressive, harsh metal scrapes attack the speakers like the most anti-ASMR ear massage you’ve experienced. It’s a trip.

I’ve genuinely never come across an album that is so atonal and experimental that also held my attention. This isn’t something I’d come to listen to often but I have to applaud Jason Doell for creating a genuinely unsettling album. Whenever I listen to this, I imagine in my mind a piano falling apart and collapsing in a time-lapse of decay. A bit like the TV series Life After People – but showing how a piano crumples into dust 400 years, sped up into 40 minutes. It gives me shivers and is utterly compelling with headphones on. This could be my most obscure oddity recommendation for 2023.

Recommended track: of being undisturbed

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Jason Doell - becoming in shadows ~ of being touched



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