Douwe Eisenga's riffs cycle around slight, subtle variations, echoing through the space of the studio. His right hand on "Left Out I," the opening piece, explores the possibilities his left hand opens up for it: two riffs on the left; chiming melodies on the right. "Bruno" feels like it has always been here, moving along a chord progression which waltzes upwards through the ascension's anticipation, then drops back to the starting riff, teasing the listener deeper into the arpeggios' rolls and echoes. Open (2021) is a product of the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020. In Eisenga's own words "A pandemic like this is devastating. It causes untold suffering, but at the same time prompts reflection. A pandemic like this puts the world behind bars, but at the same time expands space for much more openness."
An exploration of confined spaces, that is what this record is. How much can be made of very little? How much music is there in handfuls of notes? How far can creativity go with very limited options? How many possibilities are available in these small spaces?
It could make for very claustrophobic, anxious listening, but instead Eisenga finds pathways within the limitations which make Open a record of sadness, melancholy and longing. His arpeggios often feature one or two repetitions that are almost hidden in the changes that swirl around them. He takes a left hand riff and builds long and spacious melodies on it with his right. The main melody in "Walk" is just a few notes, but he lets the echoes fill the spaces where other composers might force packs of semiquavers and demisemiquavers. "Theme I -Version 2019," like all the pieces, features repetitions so subtle they are almost unnoticeable, and the long cycles of riffs, constantly moving round and looping back, like somebody wandering around a forest, echo themselves in quiet, wistful pangs. This is not an intense record, but an album of depth and introspection, of silence, lonesomeness and longing, which sparkles like frost on autumn leaves.
The true magic here is the distinct absence of gloom. Eisenga is not whinging into the keyboard. He is exploring what is possible within the confines of a dreadful, frightening situation, and therein finds chances to shine with a pure, simple brilliance. Open cannot be called a happy listen. But it is a testament to what can be done "with an open ear, an open attitude," to use another line from the liner notes' English translation.
Through exploring what he could do from his place amidst a pandemic, Eisenga, though he found a melancholy place, crafted a record which steers well clear of despair and madness. Open is an ordered, composed, and sober album created at a time which could never be described as such. It provides a chance to explore spaces which may not be immediately apparent; a chance to live within limitations which at first seem like only meanest survival.
Left Out I; Time Diggers; Bruno; Theme I - Version 2019; Walk; Searching; Slow Dance; Left Out II; Jump
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