Chris Abrahams + Mike Cooper: Oceanic Feeling-Like

Tomasz Bednarczyk: Summer Feelings

One wonders how Chris Abrahams and Mike Cooper felt when they learned that Christopher Willits and Ryuichi Sakamoto would be preceding the release of their Oceanic Feeling–Like with the similarly-themed Ocean Fire. Perturbed? Dumbfounded? Curious? Impossible to say but it's certainly a pretty remarkable example of synchronicity. The ocean's vast, seemingly limitless extent and its enigmatic character—mute with respect to divulging its secrets—acts as a spur of sorts for the musical explorations conducted by the Italy-based Cooper and Australian Abrahams. Recorded in two days during March 2005 in Sydney at Abrahams' home studio, Oceanic Feeling–Like combines his piano and DX7 with Cooper's electronics and resophonic guitar on seven tracks, with three long pieces (ten to sixteen minutes) alternating with four shorter.

The fifty-five-minute set opens unassumingly with an intro of meandering character, “Oceanic Feeling–Like Part One,” featuring spindly guitar utterances and clicks and pops of indeterminate origin. The duo plunges more deeply in “Memory of Water” where densely layered piano clusters suggestive of rippling waters are joined by steely scraping noises and the pinging pluck of the instrument's insides. Over time, the piano sounds like it's being dismantled as the percussive noises swell in number and intensity until, at its ends, “Memory of Water” is a veritable maelstrom of turbulent activity. The longest piece, “Surfside No2,” starts out as a subdued meditation of piano cascades and acoustic guitar, with the latter heard in a bluesy, dobro-like twang that smacks of the countryside and open air. The piece unfurls in a lulling, wave-like ebb and flow before eventually settling into placid stillness upon its close. “Board/Wax” and “Waiting for Otis” find the two doing free jazz cartwheels. Each setting is like a uniquely shaped island that's slightly different from the rest in magnitude and character—some with flat, spacious plains, others with knotty terrain one struggles to hack one's way through. In all cases, the playing strategy deployed throughout is explorative, open-ended, and improvisatory.

It's virtually impossible to not think of the ambient recordings of Eno and Harold Budd when listening to Tomasz Bednarczyk's debut release for ROOM40. The major difference between their works and Bednarczyk's is the natural sounds the latter artist adds to his material using field recordings. As a result, Summer Feelings feels less hermetic than grounded in clearly intimated environmental spaces. The restrained crackles and ripples that course through the eight untitled pieces and the material's generally subdued spirit suggest overcast skies and desolate seaside locales rather than celebratory gatherings of vacationing crowds at over-populated beaches—this ain't the Endless Summer of The Beach Boys or Fennesz, in other words (that Bednarczyk's Poland summers alternate with snowy winters might have something to do with it).

Throughout the thirty-nine-minute album, Bednarczyk, a young, Wroclaw-based sound artist, weaves fragile piano melodies, subtle synth touches, and evocative textures into becalmed settings that could easily guide one towards slumber. The absence of titles and field location details leaves it in the listener's hands as to the exact nature of the imaginary scenes provoked by the material but, suffice it to say, the settings are powerful enough in their wistful, even nostalgic character to induce in each listener personalized impressions of one kind or another. Certainly the ample spaces left between the somber piano melodies in the entrancing sixth piece allow for all manner of vistas to emerge, while the seventh's piano notes reverberate in classic Budd fashion. The piano retires in the more electronically-oriented closing piece, allowing the crackle of an evening campfire to dominate—one final evocation before sleep sets in.

April 2008