Preserved Sound is a label filling an important role in the online music world. There are myriad labels putting out electronic or “experimental” music, and let’s be honest, it’s much easier to fake that stuff than it is to actually demonstrate your skills on an acoustic instrument. That’s why there’s so much electronic music around.
Counteracting the flood of electronic stuff (especially that deemed “experimental” by the composer…) that is up to our nostrils right now, Preserved Sound puts out contemporary instrumental music that could be said to bridge a number of genres in a series of high-quality releases by talented musicians. I have a soft spot for this sort of music, particularly the more world-music influenced sounds of legendary German Stephan Micus, and many ambient folks retain an affection for the sounds of the Penguin Cafe Orchestra as well.
This particular duo is Australians Rasa Daukus (piano) and Will Larsen (percussion) and bases its sound on said piano and drums, and I wasn’t sure what to expect from such a theoretically limiting combination, but this is a very satisfying album with lots of variety. The musicians both have impressive track records in the Australian classical scene and a good deal of compositional training, which shows. The combination of the percussion and piano pleasantly brought to mind a less mystical version of Popol Vuh’s Tantric Songs, which contains a number of bold piano/percussion-based pieces. It probably reminded me of that because it was the album I listened to before this one, but I digress…
Much of the album fits in what might be termed the “modern classical” zone, crossing over into jazz; opening track “Dew Point”, with insistent, repetitive piano arpeggios rising in a crescendo after a moody beginning, brings to mind Reich and Glass. So I reckoned that’s what this album would be all about, but “Sometimes Never” proved me wrong, being an angular piece of dark Euro-style chamber jazz-prog that could have come right off a Univers Zero or Henry Cow album. The use of assorted percussion for dramatic effect on each piece by Larsen is very skilful. “Trace” is a delicate piece of pattern-based music that features some glockenspiel and is close to acoustic ambient in style (think French wizardess Colleen for a close reference). “Planted This to Imagine” fuses moody piano with spectral electronics in the most “contemporary”-sounding piece of sound art on the album, while “Seven Suns” is a lovely abstract piece in which the piano moves boldly around like the wind on a blustery day, with chiming percussion floating behind.
On “Directly Not Now” the duo shows its talents for jazzier moods on a piece that Jarrett wouldn’t be shamed to own. The chamber-rock vibe is brought back for the cutely titled “The Snap Beans Aren’t Salty” and “I Did That Tomorrow”. “Within It, Along” appropriately wraps up proceedings, a sparse, impressionistic slice of beauty in which the fragile piano is accompanied partially by what sounds like wine glasses (but might not be).
This is a charming album that will appeal to lovers of contemporary sound art, classical, and light jazz, and I hope it’s the first of many for this duo.