Federico Albanese: The Blue Hour
Neue Meister

To describe The Blue Hour as a more mature and accomplished collection than Federico Albanese's The Houseboat and the Moon reads like a not-so-subtle criticism of the debut album by the Milan-born and Berlin-based composer. In fact, that 2014 outing is a splendid collection that, as stated in the textura review of the Denovali Records release, likely would appeal strongly to admirers of Nils Frahm, Dustin O'Halloran, and Yann Tiersen, and certainly much the same could be said about the new collection, too. So evocative are Albanese's compositions, it comes as no surprise that he's produced scores for films by Spanish director Orlando Bosh (Shadows In The Distance) and Oliver Shweem (the documentary Cinema Perverso).

Albanese approached his follow-up using a specific theme, namely the fleeting transitional period between day and night, and composed its thirteen pieces with the concept in mind. During that twilight time, objects lose their definition, and everything begins to seem coated with a dream-like haze. Such moments encourage reflection, and a natural concomitant effect is that one's receptivity to states of melancholy and regret increases. To bring his pieces to fruition, Albanese recorded the pieces from start to finish using analogue equipment and augmented his piano playing with synthesizers, cello, and sound effects, resulting in chamber-styled settings of varying character.

A number of pieces include metronomic piano patterns that reinforce the album theme. In “Time Has Changed,” for example, a tick-tocking pattern underscores the concept, even if the dramatic setting's rapid tempo suggests in this case that time flows more quickly than one would like. Particularly lovely are the plaintive “Migrants,” whose delicate piano playing Albanese wraps in layers of synth washes and string-like textures, and “Silent Fall” and “The Boat and the Cove,” sombre meditations featuring minimal piano figures brushed ever-so-delicately by wisps of synthesizers. Though they're present throughout, the lyrical and pensive qualities of his music are especially pronounced in the gentle “My Piano Night.” In a manner similar to that of Frahm, O'Halloran, and Tiersen, Albanese's neo-classical settings, regardless of whether they're lighthearted or ponderous, are pronouncedly melodic and all the more appealing for being so.

February 2016