BRUNO BAVOTA – The Secret of the Sea (2014)

The secret of the SeaThis truly is the age of “post-rock”, and it’s kind of funny that I write so much about it, considering I spent my early thirties with hair halfway down my back, kicking out seventies rock riffs in a very “rock” band — no post! But I was always an ambient, progressive guy at heart, so it’s nice to get to hear more of this sort of thing. And this sort of thing is something Bruno Bavota does very well.

The Secret of the Sea, which is out on Psychonavigation Records, is an instrumental album that actually is more like modern ambient chamber music than “post-rock” per se. Bavota’s main weapons are piano and guitar, the latter of which is excellently treated with just the right amount of reverb and delay, retaining something of its organic feeling while being very spacy at the same time. The overall vibe of the sounds is similar to what Keith Kenniff (Helios) does, but unlike Helios, there’s no electronica here, no beats. These arrangements are stripped back to the basics, which suits the very emotional, romantic tone of the compositions very well. Hence that modest “chamber music” feel.

Opener “Me and You” is based on some lovely minor chords on the guitar and a perfect amount of delay (ah, what The Edge hath wrought!). “Les nuits blanches” is the first of several solo piano pieces on the record, a very dramatic and heartfelt composition à la what that Eluvium chap sometimes does. With “The Man Who Chased the Sea” Bavota adds another element, folky acoustic guitars, to augment that organic, natural feel. “Hidden Lights Through Smoky Clouds” brings back the piano and the space guitars in a wash of beautiful sound that perfectly matches the piece’s title.

“If Only My Heart Were Wide Like the Sea” has some lovely melodic acoustic parts, while “Northern Lights” is based on some scratchy, low-fi sounding electric parts, to add a little variety. “The Boy and the Whale” has a wistful feeling akin to French Impressionist composers’ work, and some oceanic wave sounds. It leads into the “The Secret of the Sea”, on which Bavota flexes his classical piano chops, which are quite impressive — nice mastery of dynamics at the keyboard. And the album closes with a third solo piano piece, “Chasing Stars”, that concludes affairs on an uplifting note. Bavota’s solo piano pieces are particularly impressive; they aren’t complex but they contain just the right balance of technical elements with melody.

Dietrich FlechtnerThis is an unassuming album that delivers exactly what it promises: an air of wonder and joy, mixed with a little bit of melancholy. I hope film and TV music programmers come calling, because this stuff is perfectly cinematic. A very impressive and quite lovely album that I know I’ll listen to many more times.

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