By Björk Óskarsdóttir
The duo of German brothers Daniel and Sebastian Selke, CEEYS, hardly needs much introduction to the readers of Piano & Coffee. “Ceeys”, a portmanteau they created of the words “cello” and “keys”, represents the core of their music making, their respective main instruments of expertise. The brothers have collaborated successfully playing and composing with piano and cello from an early age and have released two previous albums as CEEYS, but have also collaborated with other artists on many known projects of their genre, together and separately. Their latest release, WÆNDE, is simultaneously an album and a photography project, and was released on May 18th, 2018 on Neue Meister.
The work concept focuses on the brothers' memories of their early life growing up in East Berlin in the last decade of the GDR, and as described in their own words, they use the release to come to terms with their memories, impressions and feelings about these rather hybrid times. “Waende” has the meaning of walls in the German language; the brothers used to listen to each other and sometimes play together while in different rooms of their flat, but the word also correlates to the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989.
This is portrayed in the audio with the inventive utilization of carefully selected vintage gear from the era, and built on with the duo’s fantasy of instrumentation. Inventive can also be said about Sebastian's relationship with the cello, to which he demonstrates the clear authority and technical freedom that can only be acquired by years of classical training. The cello is a machine, an animal, and everything in between. On WÆNDE, generally, the imaginative tricks and hidden corners of the instruments have a noticeably clear artistic purpose and placement, while the former works carry slightly more of an air of improvisation. Occasionally, the soundscape references to the known German pioneers of electronic music.
One impression of the compositions is that most of the songs exist in a calm frame, with vivid, pacing movement inside – the piano often creating the frame and the cello doing most of the pacing, with stark techniques of the bow or with pizzicato. In Rectangles, the cello corresponds with the frame, sometimes in a dialogue, with a simple motif mimicking the sound and pitch of the outlining frame but at times frustrated and coarse, almost animalistic. This particular track perhaps corresponds especially well with the work concept as a whole, which is explored through different depths and colors on the rest of the album. Greys stands out as well, notably cold and nearly mechanical, while expanding throughout. The cello lurks along the scope of sound, virtually becoming one with it, stirs up tension and then disappears. Zanzibar is a beautiful, upbeat end to the work, made from pizzicato loops and drops of “Arvo Pärt”-ic, minimal piano motifs.
From a quick earful, WÆNDE might seem minimalistic but in reality is full of nuances and details. This is one of the duo’s main characteristics, but the brothers generally exercise a reduced approach to composing and improvising, resulting in what they call “accessible minimalism” with elements from different genres of instrumental music. The production is immaculate, and the listener is left with a sense of intention every second of the album. Cold and warm, motionless and still moving, WÆNDE makes an interesting point of antithesis and form, a work of disciplined quality, yet leaving room for plenty of turmoil.