Richard A. Ingram: Piano Test
Medium Format

Piano Test is the diametric opposite to Ingram's recent White Box full-length Consolamentum, which presented six moody soundscapes of dark ambient design. A quick scan of Ingram's website reveals, however, that he's issued more piano- than guitar-based music during the past couple of years (he also plays guitar under the name Gambler in the Manchester-based outfit Oceansize), including a recent contribution he made to the American Typewriter release Keys (A Comprehensive Collection Of Contemporary Piano Compositions).

Of course Piano Test is different in format too, with Ingram having made the release available (from his site) in only fifty copies on cassette (“Long live the humble cassette,” he writes at his MySpace page). Put simply, it's a lovely little collection of prepared and treated piano settings with side one featuring six short pieces and the other side two. The opening side's vignettes present a range of moods: “Lullaby No. 2” is sweet without being cloying; “Oh Dear Daisy,” all breezy charm, exudes a lightness of spirit reminiscent of Yann Tiersen 's Amelie soundtrack; “Poor Sod” is melancholy and wistful and the title track elegant and reflective. There's a music box-like gentleness to some of the pieces, with side two's “Weak” one such case. “Peace and War,” the last and longest of the eight pieces, opens in a rather stately mode until its chords grow further and further apart and finally stop, leaving in their wake ambient sounds of shuffling and clatter before the piano's ghostly melodiesreturn. Naturally, tape hiss is omnipresent, which, depending on the degree of nostalgia one has for the cassette format, may or may not form part of Piano Test 's appeal. For this listener, it simply enhances the music's charm.

September 2010