Elsewhere Return Visitors

John Eyles By

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As the Elsewhere label's third anniversary, in July 2021, closely followed the June release of its fifteenth and sixteenth albums, it seemed an appropriate time to look back. In a way, those two albums tell a large part of the story as, together, they feature three musicians who are all return visitors to the label, Anastassis Philippakopoulos appearing on his second Elsewhere release, Jürg Frey on his third and Melaine Dalibert on his fifth. And, given that the label has already issued two separate Piano Series, each of three albums, it is not surprising that eleven of the label's sixteen albums to date feature piano music, with the two considered below forming part of that total.

Lest it might seem that Elsewhere is dominated by a few musicians, let us not forget a whole string of one-off album releases which debunk that notion—the label's first release, the triple disc Blurred Music by violinist Biliana Voutchkova and clarinetist Michael Thieke, the experimental, risk-taking double CD Works on Paper by Gil Sansón and Lance Austin Olsen, and the beguiling songs on Earth Leap Up by the Canadian female duo The Giving Shapes, to name but three...

Anastassis Philippakopoulos / Jürg Frey
Wind and Light

Greek composer and pianist Anastassis Philippakopoulos' previous Elsewhere release, Piano Works, released in February 2020, featured twelve of his pieces for solo piano, played by Melaine Dalibert. including the three on Wind and Light. In addition, the album Hannesson, Boon, Philippakopoulos (Editions Wandelweiser, 2019) contained versions of four of the Greek's piano pieces, played by Dante Boon, including "Piano Piece (2017)" and "Piano Piece (2018b)," both also on Wind and Light. So, recordings of the three piano pieces on this album have been heard before, and interesting comparisons can be made between the versions played here by their composer, recorded in February 2019, and past recordings.

However, there is far more to this album than its three piano tracks. Sensibly, those piano pieces alternate with four songs for clarinet, written by Philippakopoulos between 2009 and 2016, and played here by Jürg Frey in recordings dating from September 2016. The way the tracks are ordered almost makes it feel as if the shorter piano tracks are being used as sorbets between the four courses of clarinet. Given the differences between piano and clarinet, the pieces for the two are distinctly different too, clarinet notes being sustainable for longer and able to slowly rise to a peak then fade away. One beauty of this album's running order is that such differences can be appreciated better because of the juxtapositioning of the two instruments.

Jürg Frey has observed, "I hear the clarinet as the breath of a human being, and the piano as the sounds in the landscape I hear from a distance...I didn't expect something like that in the context of an album, a poetic relationship between the human and the landscape." Altogether, like a good movie, this album is best appreciated as a whole, from start to finish.

Melaine Dalibert
Night Blossoms

On Night Blossoms Melaine Dalibert plays six of his recent compositions, dating from the years 2019 to 2021. As with other recent Dalibert compositions, those here are not overlong and are strong on melody, making them very easy on the ear.

Dalibert had said that, since his composition of Ressac (Another Timbre, 2017), he had thought about adding a kind of electronic shadow to his most minimal compositions. That idea led to a noteworthy development, which may prove significant; on two of this album's tracks—the neatly titled "Yin" and "Yang"—Dalibert is not completely solo but is joined by David Sylvian who is credited with "sound contribution," shimmering, echoing electronic shadows of piano tones, which give depth and atmosphere to the pieces. The overall effect is stunning and makes those two tracks the album's best, despite considerable competition from the album's longest piece, "Sisters" which is sandwiched between them.

So far, with things such as cover art, Sylvian has played an important backstage role in the success of Elsewhere but, to date, these are his only recorded contributions on it. In the past, he has recorded with an impressive catalogue of collaborators, including Jan Bang, John Butcher, Werner Dafeldecker, Sidsel Endresen, Christian Fennesz, Arve Henriksen, Jaki Liebezeit... On this evidence, Elsewhere would do well to record an album of Dalibert and Sylvian together soon. Another success from the label.

Tracks and Personnel

Wind and Light

Tracks: Song 4 for clarinet; Piano Piece (2013); Song 7 for clarinet; Piano Piece (2017); Song 8 for clarinet; Piano Piece (2018b); Song 10 for clarinet.

Personnel: Jürg Frey: clarinet (1,3,5,7); Anastassis Philippakopoulos: piano (2, 4, 6)

Night Blossoms

Tracks: a rebours; windmill; eolian scape; yin; sisters; yang.

Personnel: Melaine Dalibert: piano; David Sylvian: 'sound contribution' (4, 6).

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