Potlatch

Recorded without overdubs or laptop electronics, Stengam is a 43-minute composition for grand piano, E-Bows and super magnets that flows without interruption despite being subdivided into eight tracks on the CD. It starts almost tentatively with “North-South”, as if Fuhler is dipping a toe in the water before plunging in: gentle bumps and muffled tolling establish a calm mood, the atmosphere underscored by subtly elongated vibrations of the lower strings. On “Ferrous”, wavering ripples and multiform frictions keep us on the edge, waiting for some sort of explosion or complication; it’s the most aggressive passage in an otherwise inward-drawn music. The resolution to the tension comes in the disc’s second half, the six sections of “Stengam”. In part 2, magnets put the bass strings in continuous oscillation, after which Fuhler juxtaposes further adjacent tones, this time in the treble, generating beautiful sustained tensions that are kept at a safe distance from excessive brilliance via strident bowing, rarefied plucking and regular pulse, all of which reaching their apex during part 3. The end of the disc finds Fuhler returning to a more percussive, almost ritualistic approach, the final segment introducing additional suspensions and uncertainties before slipping into silence. Stengam presents several sonic combinations whose molecules spread in the air with authority, but I’m left with the sensation of barely scratched surfaces, secrets that remain locked in vaults. Fuhler hints at many aspects of the physics of vibration in relation to the piano, but somehow never fully gets to the essence of the matter, changing perspectives too often. It’s a shame, because there is some real substance there. A fine and worthy effort, then – but a whisker or two short of true excellence.

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