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Album Review

33, the third solo album by Hans Fjellestad, takes you elsewhere, away from his writing for ensembles (featured on Red Sauce Baby) and into a more intimate sound world centered on the piano. The fixture of bourgeois boudoirs is approached as a cultural icon, a mean to channel emotions, a source of noise, and a tool of inspiration. And the pianist doesn't stick to this sole instrument; he also uses an old analog synthesizer, computer, sampler, and field recordings to create strange studio constructions that often stray far away from conventional piano music. Then again, you wouldn't expect anything less from Fjellestad. "Hash Knife," "Pica," and "Mink Eyed" are piano-only pieces (if you take out the occasional vocal interjection). In them, the pianist shows his odd integration of the free jazz (Cecil Taylor, Borah Bergman) and contemporary (Frederic Rzewski, John Tilbury) idioms. "Hash Knife" contrasts manic key runs with sparse string-plucking and wood-hitting, while "Mink Eyed" is lightly dissonant romanticism. But the best moments are found in the hybrid pieces where the piano's discourse intermingles with electronics and studio wizardry. "Smoke Shank" pairs a piano improvisation punctuated by overaccentuated grunts from the pianist with episodes of digitized reconfiguration. In "Phone Damage," he puts the E-Bow to the piano strings, although this is only one detail in an eventful piece that unfolds like cinema for the ear. The computer construction "Cabrito," with its beautiful soft-spoken finale, provides the undisputed highlight. ~ François Couture, Rovi

33, Hans Fjellestad
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