Streetlights faintly stir in their grudging rouge luminescence, much of the day’s purpose by now extinguished and nature’s nocturnal cloak is in hand if not yet fitted. A curious light hangs in the air, neither on nor off, and for that short passage time is almost suspended. That, as far as can be ascertained from Federico Albanese’s comments surrounding this magical new record, is ‘The Blue Hour’. An Italian composer resident in Berlin, he is a master of the piano but a student of popular music’s many and varied turns. The result is a lyrical, rhythmic and emotive modern classical sound that enthrals to the last.
After brief introductory piece ‘Nel Buio’ evokes the blur of gloaming vision, ‘Time Has Changed’ gathers pace, piano and skittering synths combining in a manner which will delight fans of Nils Frahm. The dual textures neatly capture the combined sense of bodily weariness and the overactive mind, making for an ideal winter walking soundtrack. This capacity to do multiple things at once is evident across the whole record, the piano an instrument that cuts straight to the core of the human condition when pushed and pulled in the right direction.
‘Shadow Land Part 1’ is a fairly frenetic piece, given added clout by the presence of an achingly insistent cello and a slightly unsettling, frequently fluctuating electronic shimmer. ‘Part 2’ proves to be its slower, more meditative relation. ‘And We Follow Night’ is a scampering piece, a manipulated drum beat away from being a euphoric house track for which the rather more melancholic, but still driven, title track is the comedown.
The album concludes with two of its finest moments. ‘My Piano Night’ is built around a repeating refrain which is gently manoeuvred alongside spacious field recordings and washes of electronic sound, retreating at its conclusion to allow the sounds of the real world to provide a transition into closer ‘Stellify’. As with most of these accessible but powerful pieces, it clocks in at under four minutes but doesn’t waste a note. The mythological use of the word in its title referenced an ascent from earth dweller to celestial being and, as it nears its conclusion, many of the textures on ‘The Blue Hour’ return and intensify as if offering a farewell and release. Albanese joins a select group of modern classical artists able to offer so very much without the need for words.
Words: Gareth James
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