Apr 28 2014
It’s the magnificent serenity drawn from the immersion into the tiny little dissonances, miniature flaws and warped imagery of The Visible Ones that makes the new release by Planetarium so wildly successful. This duo collaboration of saxophonist Matthieu Donarier and pianist Albert van Veenendaal manage to present an avant-garde production with a sublime atmosphere, producing an engaging album that would pair quite well with a morning sun just rising over the horizon.
“Radio Silence,” with its haunting melody and “Choral & Riffs,” with its declarative monologue… each displaying an inquisitive nature, letting sentences hang, then moving onto the next without ever providing a conclusion to the one previous. There’s a vague suspense that grows from this approach, and it’s the inherent vagueness that drives the music’s cryptic intensity.
That intensity, however, isn’t unleashed, but gently exhaled, a concentrated force that seeks to persuade the ear to embrace the music, rather than some evocative form of coercion. “Blue Rotterdam” is bathed in moonlight, yet its creeping cadence and sharp calls hint at the menace that its warm tones offer refuge from. No different with the strange tunefulness of “Univers Elastique,” a lullaby refracted through warped glass.
“Vernell Ho” punctuates its accents with a bit more fervor, occasionally even going so far as to raise its voice from time to time, but rather than dispel the calm, it serves to emphasize the vivid personality of Donarier’s fluttering saxophone and the curious sounds of Veenendaal’s prepared piano. The brief surfeit of “Danzon” bangs its fists on the bars of its cage, but it is only a prelude to the languorous beauty of title-track “The Visible Ones,” in which the dramatic swell of piano is no more disturbing than the crash of waves that precede the susurrant hush of a tide thinning out over the breadth of the shore.
A few of the tracks are unclassifiable in the context of this album. There’s the Nik Bartsch-like zen groove of “Comets” and the long double-pitched drone of “Whale Song,” and also the wind-swept dramatics of “Calling,” but these are merely evidence of the substantive depth of this album… diverse expressions of a rich personality.
Your album personnel: Matthieu Donarier (saxophones) and Albert van Veenendaal (piano, prepared piano, toys).
Released on Clean Feed Records.