Piano Interrupted: Two By Four
So what do you get when you pair classical piano playing and laptop-based manipulation? Something like Piano Interrupted. But while those strands might form the core of the project's sound, Tom Hodge and Franz Kirmann's outfit has also evolved from the two-person, in-studio inception of three years ago to one that now includes Greg Hall on cello and Eric Young on percussion.
Only two pieces on Two By Four are duos (“Etude,” “London Waltz”), with the rest quartet performances, which makes the duo settings more representative of Piano Interrupted's original sound. As such, the stark contrasts between the crystalline clarity of the piano and the expansive electronic textures contributed by the computer are prominently captured in both tracks. It would be a mistake to make too of the difference between the duo and quartet pieces, however, when Kirmann is able to contribute so many different textures and instrument sounds to the material, no matter the number of players involved. Anything becomes possible, sonically speaking, once the limitless potential of the computer is factored into Piano Interrupted's soundworld.
Though it's hard to pin down the group's style, one might think of it as a blend of elegant neo-classical piano and experimental electronic genres, with nods to noir jazz, free improv, and moody film soundtracks key parts of the total mix. Acoustic and electronic sounds are emphasized equally, and so too is there an equal concentration on texture and melody. As if to affirm just how integral the new recruits' contributions are to the group sound, Hall's cello is heard before Hodge's piano in the opener “You Don't Love Me Yet” (although, admittedly, it's also possible that the strings are a Kirmann contribution), but once Hodge and Young do enter, the music settles into a chamber jazz style whose noirish mood is expanded upon by Kirmann's subtle interventions.
“Hobi” introduces a stylistic shift into moody exoticism that can be attributed in part to the group's involvement in scoring Papa Hedi, a documentary film about the life and times of Hedi Jouini (a Tunisian singer, composer, and oud player), and to the fact that samples of Jouini's music were used as starting points for the compositions. In the two other Papa Hedi-related tracks, “Hedi” greatly benefits from Young's percussive gallop and the sampled inclusion of Jouini's oud playing, while “Bulbus” marries Reich-inflected piano patterning to the oud's wiry sound.As if designed to emphasize the idea that Piano Interrupted is not a hermetic studio project, the album concludes with three pieces recorded live at UM:LAUT, Berlin. In truth, the album would be better off without the additions, as they make the seventy-four-minute recording feel overlong; furthermore, the live pieces, while certainly credible in their own right (“Etude” is particularly lovely, in fact, and Hall contributes gorgeous solo turns to “London Waltz” and “Foug”), already appear on the album in their original studio versions, making the repetitions even less necessary.