Theo Alexander

Broken Access by Theo Alexander by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Edward Willoughby

Crystalline piano and otherworldly electronica effortlessly mingle together in UK based composer Theo Alexander’s latest release ‘Broken Access’ in which five contemplative, reverent tracks take us through a journey flickering between outer space, and the place where dreams happen. There’s a sense that one is crossing over to somewhere far from this world as this album shifts and turns, a whir of stirring time and space. It is grounded by piano motif, texture, and a familiar glimmer of melody and bass movement, calling us back home. Above this swirls more experimental sounds and textures, elevating the overall sonic experience to something much more compelling.

The opening track ‘Palliative’ glimmers in a liminal space, fluttering like a butterfly, shimmering like a dream; gentle piano like raindrops on the water’s surface. At first contemplative and optimistic, then
shifting, pivoting across timbres, the layers build and the sound mass modulates. Like a flower opening out, the soft muted sound of piano hammers ripples rhythmically and insistently, giving way to mesmerizing sounds as the electronic manipulation builds, whipping up a haze. With a sense of sinking, the sound thins out to a held tone, textured and warbling, like a static beacon of light in the distance, holding on an impossibly long time at this point of stasis, before gently dying away.

Then, like a ghostly apparition, lead single ‘Hammer Frenzy’ reveals itself in a distant flicker of soft, mellow piano, dancing in kaleidoscopic rhythms and circling persistently. This evolving motif is beguiling and mesmerizing; it sounds like a place of stillness, outside of time, with its scintillating piano textures cosmically colliding. Here, Alexander builds on the style he has developed across previous releases, combining the rhythmic drive of minimalism with unconventional techniques. He creates a seductive, enchanting swirl of splintering patterns, out of which emerges a strong melodic line of open voiced chords. The piece continues to build and evolve, subtly shifting, then concludes with an abrupt sense of waking up from a dream; a flicker of sobering reality, and the piece disappears into silence.

In the middle, we find ourselves at ‘A Matter of Balance’ in which we are plunged into a dark, cavernous space. In a gentle, disorienting moment suspended in slow orbit, music flickers like glowing neon flashes punctuating the darkness. As the whirring bass appears beneath, there is a sense of being dangerously high, looming above, before coming down to the earthly texture of twinkling piano, and suddenly we’re home. The sound descends into distortion, as the door is slammed shut behind.

Following on with ‘Fortuité,’ the album takes a turn to a more nostalgic sound, like looking back in time through a window as the sounds of piano filter through, like a prayer or a meditation. It unfolds like a minimalist collage of timbres harmonising like shards of a chandelier, spinning and whirling, before gentle bass gives shape and movement to the forms. Finally, it dissolves into a gurgling, bubbling alternate reality as a simple piano line re-emerges, giving way to a playful skipping melody as the piece winds down.

The album concludes with a sombre, lulling piece entitled ‘Aspects Withdrawn’ which leaves us in a wistful state. There is a sense of floating, falling in slow motion, like space debris, with a whirring texture, and a peppering of percussive clicks towards the end. This final piece closes off the album as a brief moment of pause, offering sense of conclusion, and a final impression of having experienced a lucid dream.

In its entirety, the album combines and overlaps acoustic piano and electronic manipulation with a deft touch that creates an evocative, and at times even moving sense of being taken on a journey to another world. In its minimalist aesthetic, rhythm and tone colour create a wonderful lattice through which the threads of filtered and manipulated sounds are woven, placing this work into a contemporary context that is of its time in an effortless way. There is a sense of the tone colour and rich harmonics of piano being lifted and augmented by the added electronic colours, and the interplay between elements lends a deeper conceptual foundation and structure.

 

Fresh Finds #2 by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Sergio Díaz De Rojas

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On this second edition of Fresh Finds, we share with you a series of beautiful singles by both emerging and established artists from the contemporary classical music scene. 

Theo Alexander returns with Palliative, a seven minutes demonstration of what his upcoming record, Broken Access, will be. Otto Totland returns, as well, with Vates, a nostalgic and hopeful piano piece, the ideal introduction to his long-awaited record The Lost, which follows and expands on his intimate debut solo piano album Pinô from 2014. An artist that also took three years to release another record is Christ Bartels, also known as Elskavon, who has shared with us three singles (Anthos being one of them) from Skylight, an album inspired by memorable moments in his life, to be released in January 2018. To finish this series of upcoming records, we introduce you to Esja by Hania Rani, a Polish pianist and composer currently working on her first solo album after having previously collaborated with cellist Dobrawa Czocher.

To vary a little bit, we have added a rework to our SoundCloud and Spotify playlists. Daigo Hanada (Moderna Records) has recomposed Empire, taken from Matt Emery's debut album of the same name. On this version, Daigo replaces the percussive piano with soft arpeggios, and the strings with a baroque soprano recorder, perfectly combined in order to achieve a grandiose build-up. 

Last but not least, we included a very special piece by a very special artist. Forgotten Fields has returned with his self-titled album, a multidisciplinary project inspired by the remote landscapes of the Western Cape of South Africa. Each piece represents a verse of a poem written by him, which captures the idea behind the album.

Find all of these pieces below and in our Spotify playlist

 

Points of Decay by Theo Alexander by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Tilsa Llerena

Music has magic. It gives us the possibility to reach beautiful and distant places, feelings and emotions that are usually removed from us, almost involuntarily. So here we are now, floating in the hands of the English Theo Alexander who takes us to a fantastic world of landscapes, textures, and melancholy, telling a beautiful story from beginning to end.

Points of Decay is one of those albums where music goes beyond the studio recordings, to continue in production work – where the effects, distortions, and the way the sound was managed are like other musicians who play along with Theo and build each piece of this album.

Alexander plays with sound; the extracts of recordings in "Dying", voices appearing in "Please Forget" and "Waiting for you to die", and the beautiful simplicity of "Twice, get out” remind us of the great Daniel Johnston and his free and unprejudiced way to play with music. In "Improvisation (February 3)" Alexander doesn’t hesitate to show his virtue on the piano, but the most interesting thing is that virtuosity is not a priority at all. Break violently the sound of the piano, distort it to obtain different textures with such delicacy that they don’t lose their smoothness. Alexander prioritizes the search from an honest place and achieves it.

Points of Decay is definitely an album to listen carefully to – take a moment to appreciate and not miss any detail because details are what make up the beauty of this album.


Theo's latest work is available on Bandcamp. Follow him on SoundCloud and Facebook for updates!