Joe Evans: Affected Piano

Experimental composer Joe Evans takes a fresh approach to recycling on his latest release, Affected Piano. His source material is piano phrases extracted from past works, which he then proceeds to stretch, pull, distort, and process until they become elements in large, dense, droning structures. In his notes, Evans points out that he uses a 19-note scale rather than a traditional 12-note scale. This, according to the composer, creates a familiar chord structure that is subject to “unexpected changes and subtle new harmonies…throughout.” I’ll take his word for that and just dive into his mesmerizing sound-structures. In general, the five pieces on Affected Piano open with a motif on piano, a solid anchor point for what follows, landmarks that re-appear to stand briefly out in the flow, only to be again subsumed in the washes of drone. Evans works with his resonant sounds and ongoing processing to build and layer and increase his atmospheres in intensity, turning them into swelling sonic landscapes. He’s fond of gearing them up to a point of maximum density, then slamming it back into a cleaner form, often just to begin playing with it anew. There’s an interesting sense of relief that comes with that sudden release; you can physically feel the weight of the sound pulled off you. It’s especially effective in the third track, which is built on sledgehammer chords and works its way into a genuinely abrasive texture. It’s only four minutes long, but it’s a long four minutes. At its core, Affected Piano is drone; the attraction comes from the use of the source material and how Evans plays with it differently in each track. There are layers at work, and a dynamic structure in constant evolution. And while this may seem an odd thing on which to comment, even Evan’s choice to end the disc with 10 silent seconds is a well-considered element. He pares his way down to it, snaps off the sound at the right moment, and lets the sensibilities of the last hour echo in the negative space. A very intriguing listen.

Available at Runningonair.

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