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    The Bowed Piano Ensemble – Ice and Fire

    The Bowed Piano Ensemble - Ice and Fire

    Founded way back in 1977 by composer Stephen Scott, The Bowed Piano Ensemble conjures up the myriad sounds of a chamber orchestra miraculously while employing only one instrument: the grand piano. On the back cover of their sixth album, Ice and Fire, the nine members of the ensemble look like a bunch of black-clad doctors hunched over the operating table performing surgery. And that’s precisely what they do: open up the wound (lid of the instrument) and tease out its guts to produce an array of aural pleasantries that nurse our sullied psyches back to health.

    “Afternoon of a Fire” starts off the proceedings with a sparse, quiet atmosphere that segues into gorgeous chamber pop that is somehow rhythmic and droning at the same time. Led by Native American flutes, this piece was inspired by the Indians who lived in the Colorado Springs area, which is the home of the ensemble. Starting off in a similar vein, “New York Drones” proceeds on into a more minimal, dissonant form of chug that is somehow oddly relaxing. This one was inspired by and dedicated to Steve Reich. “Vocalise on In a Silent Way” proffers a softly billowing atmosphere featuring a female soprano who leads the way into a gently lilting tune that incorporates a nice melody by jazz musician Joe Zawinula.

    The hovering improv clatter of “Aurora Ficta” creates clouds that coalesce and dissipate after tossing down a mist of subtle string frottage. The mood evokes “the astronomical phenomenon familiar to the ancients as a false dawn, known today as Zodiacal light, which is a dimly glowing triangle rising up from the horizon where sunlight reflects off of dust particles in the solar system.” This track alone is worth the price of admission. In “La Guitarra,” the soprano is back as the pianists, in a nod to the track’s title, strike up some severe guitar-like strums before launching into a full-on opera. The CD draws to a close with “Baltic Sketches,” a greeting card to the people of Estonia and Lithuania, where the piece was first performed. After a bit of rhythmic knocking and drumming, the piece revisits previous moods both pleasant and menacing, which puts a fitting, finishing touch on this fine collection of chamber pop ‘n’ drone.

    Label: Navona Records Catalog Number: NV5937 Format: CD Packaging: Digi-Pak Tracks: 10 Total Time: 51:37 Country: United States Released: 2013 More: Navona Records, Official

    Text ©2014 Arcane Candy

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