Alejandro Franov: Suspendido en el Aire

Recorded at Alejandro Franov's Buenos Aires home last July, the sixty-seven-minute Suspendido en el Aire (Suspended in the Air) features a single instrument on its six long-form instrumentals. Though the Argentinean artist provides clarifying text to demystify the project, the precise nature of that instrument remains a bit of a mystery: the inner sleeve lists it simply as “keyboard,” but it would appear to be no simple piano, given the presence of bent notes that suggest something closer to a synthetic keyboard whose pitches can be manipulated; Franov's own characterization of the instrument's sound as “a galactic pianola played by itself” comes close to capturing its alien, supra-acoustic quality.

To generate the album's unusual tunings, he physically modified the interval distances on the instrument, resulting in a sound that technically might be called microtonal music. His additional statement, that he “tried to simulate an inhuman sound, like a sound coming from the exterior of the Universe, as if it were,” also proves helpful in enabling the listener to make sense of the material presented.

When the keyboard's glimmering timbre introduces “Ultima A,” one is variously reminded of the music accompanying a circus carousel or the kind of thing a busker might play for a dancing monkey. The first deviation from conventional pitch occurs two minutes into the ten-minute piece when its sing-song chords suddenly turn sea-sickly; at the six-minute mark, a shift to higher pitches aligns the keyboard's sound to that of a church organ. An early zenith of sorts is reached in the eighteen-minute second track, “Relato Completo (desigualdad),” which glistens and gleams beatifically when not derailed by sudden warbling episodes and atonal detours before ultimately settling into a generally peaceful burble for its concluding section. Elsewhere, the synthesizer-like character of the instrument comes to the fore during the wildly pitch-shifting finale “Integracion,” whereas “La Llegada de Dios” chimes radiantly from its first moment, “Procesion” softly flickers like a steam-powered calliope, and “Ballenas” amplifies the keyboard's gleam through the overlaying of chords.

In notes Chihei Hatakeyama wrote for the release (the text displayed at its Bandcamp page), a connection is made between Suspendido en el Aire and Terry Riley's A Rainbow in Curved Air, and certainly some of the minimal spirit of the latter might be heard in Franov's recording, even if it seems more free-form by comparison. There's an undeniably playful and explorative quality to the material that makes the pieces feel more like improvisations than formally through-composed settings.

February 2017