With any form of compilation, there is always a thread or theme that makes the gathered elements come together into some coherent whole. Whether it’s the output of an artist, a geographical or cultural epicentre or a survey of a scene or movement, a collection of music often grows out of one overarching example, but the results can become little more than signposts to new discoveries. The desire of having music that offers a succession of peak after peak becomes a conceptual impossibility.
The nature of ‘classical’ recordings gives another layer due to the way works are created and then interpreted by players. The same piece existing as a series of guidelines and circumstances that can give each performance a huge amount of character and variety.
However, this new collection of 8 pieces explored by Canadian Brazilian pianist Luciane Cardassi is an album that hangs together like a cohesive single 75-minute voyage. Informed by works from composers and friends at either end of Cardassi’s own cultural heritage, Going North delights in bristling, hugely engaging forms somewhere far more dynamic that the albums, somewhat rudimentary, sleeve may project.
Each work here, is performed by Cardassi and grows out of piano and voice. However, these forms delight in all sorts of electronic manipulations and undulations that throw the listener headfirst into a bristling avant-garde ceremony.
The agitated stuttering electronics peck around the pregnant space carved out of the opening moments of Terri Hron — AhojAhoj are immediately exhilarating. It’s clear that whilst the sound broadly grows from the piano, this is a reverb filled acoustic space that’s being manipulated as much as the keys. Snaking round a cassette recording of the composer’s family behind an iron curtain Czechoslovakia 9 minutes in, and the listener rolls in a turbulence, reminiscent of the odd lysergic excesses of Don Bradshaw Leather’s wild The Distance Between Us.
Jorge Villavicencio Grossmann — Dois Aforismos com Interlúdio and Emilie Lebel — Wonder, both extend the spatial quality of Cardassi’s palette. The piano keys tumbling and interlocking, loaded with forward momentum and oblique decays into thick silences. Recorded voices, actual voices and electronic smudges peppered and dusted over peaks and gaps.
Alexandre Espinheira — Berimbau, as the title suggests gravitates around the single stringed Brazilian instrument of the same name. The upright percussive brightness of this single activated string vying amongst the normally 230 present in a piano, again tugged at with vocal and electronic blossoms. The very fabric of sound is stretched and unravelled in the odd morphing of Chantale Laplante — Estudo de um piano whilst Darren Miller — for will robbins, strips similar elements even further back creating sonic islands moored in glassy voids. Lia Sfoggia, Guilherme Bertissolo, Luciane Cardassi — Converse gathers forms from three artists blending dance, real time sound processing and piano into a heady stew of heard elements, unseen actions and strategies.
The final piece Fernando Mattos — The Boat Sings meditates on an improvised fragment by Mattos that here, culminating in a low-key crescendo of embalmed, slowly emitted beauty.
Each of these 8 compositions describe their own ecosystem and refer to very particular things and the program notes detail various aspects of what each composer has grouped together. This information adds meaning, gravity, history and context to the work. But at risk of sounding like a very surface fixated listen, we’ve loved several fly throughs as simply beguiling and map-less experiences.
Perhaps Cardassi’s sonic vocabulary and choices here focus on a very specific palette that draws as much attention to the similarities as the difference throughout this album. Whilst that could be seen as a potential weakness, Going North’s actual power is that it has created its own abstracted zone, a form of mutant jazz or textural electronics as much as a gently fragmenting multi-layered suite. A wildly odd and bristling work, squeezing every thoughtful drop out of seldom grouped and gathered ingredients.
Going North is out on Redshift Records on 30 October. Pre-order here