Travelogue 2016.05.29: A modern classical weekend with 1631 Recordings


Take a look at the breadth of the 1631 Recordings catalog and you might find it hard to believe that the imprint was launched less than a year ago. Granted many of the releases are reissues and compilations, but they are impeccable selections of both albums and artists that deserve a wider hearing. Balancing these out are original releases that are among the finest in the genre and this travelogue takes a journey with four of the latest featuring CEEYS (Germany), Bruno Sanfilippo (Argentina), Roberto Attanasio (Italy), and Library Tapes (Sweden). 

CEEYS – The Grunewald Church Session

Featured track: “Concrete Field”

CEEYS are the brothers Sebastian and Daniel Selke, an instrumental duo from Berlin. The name is a portmanteau that is intended to reflect both the interplay and unity of their respective instruments, Sebastian’s cello and Daniel’s piano. Another distinctive element of their sound is the incorporation of electronic gear and instruments from the Cold War period especially from the former GDR where they spent time growing up,.an experience that will serve as the basis of their forthcoming studio album and multimedia project Concrete Fields.   

According to the brothers, their debut album, The Grunewald Chucrch Session, can be seen as a live jam session and a sketchbook and, I would argue, the ideal introduction to the utterly absorbing work of two imaginative and highly accomplished musicians. If the aching cello lines of “Concrete Field” and “Hover, Over, Me” call to mind the most hauntingly beautiful work of Ólafur Arnalds, it is with good reason. It is Sebastian’s cello samples that were used for Arnalds’ Spitfire Audio library on the recommendation Nils Frahm (see a behind the scenes montage on this below).  The tremendous talent, impeccable musicianship, and depth of feeling they bring to this record makes it an nailed-on must-listen for any modern classical fan, an absolute gem that in my mind immediately puts them in the frame with the best of the genre.


Bruno Sanfilippo – The Poet

Featured track: “The Poet”

Classically trained in Buenos Aires and now living, composing, & recording in Barcelona, Bruno Sanfilippo returns with his third studio album in as many years in The Poet and it is perhaps his most expansive and imaginative work to date. Joined by Julián Kancepolski on cello and Pere Bardagí on violin, Sanfilippo delivers all the captivating resonance, stark counterpoint, and expressive minimalism found in ClarOscuro and Inside Life, especially on pieces like “Before Nightfall”, “Iron Horse”, and “Abandoned Carousel”, but there is fresh infusion of energy and a new-found sense of compelling narrative here as well.

You can here it in the title track,  “The Book Without Words”, and “The Four Keys”, and the resounding brass in “Dead’s Hope” sounds positively cinematic. We also know we can expect moments of effusive, heart-rending beauty which we certainly get in “The Legend of the Sailor” and “Seventy Seven Years Later”. IfThe Poet was a soundtrack, one would imagine it to be an absorbing historical epic and a grand film indeed.


Roberto Attanasio – Another Past

Featured track: “Wolf”

Roberto Attanasio is pianist, composer and sound engineer based in Rome who clearly has a keen love of the instrument. He built his own studio, took an old piano found in a garage into it and recorded ten intimate solo pieces that comprise his solo debut Another Past.

Attanasio makes his piano move and breathe by capturing not just the traditional sounds played on the keys but also the percussive inner workings. Whereas the clicking sounds that develop on older pianos is often viewed as something to eliminate or repair, here it is used to great effect, creating a sense of gentle perpetual motion like the steady flapping of bird’s wings on which the eloquent and fetching melodies can glide.  It is an exquisite collection beautifully composed, well-paced and nicely set off by the final coda which creates ambient textures from the echoes of natural reverb.


Library Tapes – Sketches, Outtakes, & Rarities – Volume 2

Featured track: “Silhouettes (solo piano)”

Library Tapes is of course the best known recording moniker of David Wenngren who is also the co-founder of 1631 Recordings.  Through the label he has released his second volume of sketches, outtakes, and rarities which includes alternate versions of a number of songs from the his most recent studio album Escapism which featured Julia Kent on cello (read the ST review here).

Wenngren starts out on a bright note with a variation of the lively “Above the Flood” which originally appeared in 2008 and then gives us brief but quite enjoyable sketches such as “Elegi” and “View From a Train” along with five exceptionally lovely solo piano variations of songs that appeared on Escapism one of which also gets a fine rework (“Achieving Closure II”). This may be something of an assortment as the title implies, but like a sampler of fine chocolates, you can’t go wrong no matter what you choose. This will do nicely until the next complete Library Tapes project comes along.