Sebastian Plano: Impetus
“Recorded and mixed by me in a tiny room”—the humility of the words Sebastian Plano displays on the inner sleeve of his sophomore album Impetus belies the bold reach and ambition of the music featured on the sixty-four-minute collection (including two bonus tracks, one available on the CD and both as digital pieces). Born in Argentina and currently ensconced in Berlin, the classically trained composer and multi-instrumentalist follows the earlier debut outing Arrhythmical Part of Hearts with an arresting classical-electronic collection guaranteed to appeal to fans of Nils Frahm, Max Richter, and even Astor Piazzolla.
Though his main instrument is cello, the versatile Plano also shows himself to be adept at other instruments, including piano, percussion, and bandoneon, and even manages to work his own vocals into the project, too. Plano's sound world is largely acoustic in nature, with the gunshot percussion strikes that punctuate “Blue Loving Serotonin” and the skeletal beat pattern in “Outside Eyes” rare instances where electronic sounds make their presence felt. The bandoneon is so indelibly associated with Piazzolla that the mere sound of the instrument evokes the Nuevo Tango master; even so, Plano intensifies the association by giving the bandoneon playing in “Angels” and “All Given To Machinery” Piazzolla-like melodies. Not that that's a bad thing, of course, as any music that helps keep the Piazzolla fire burning is fine by me.
As one would expect from someone working within the genre of contemporary electronic music, Plano assembles his pieces by weaving multiple layers of instruments into sophisticated arrangements, resulting in convincing simulations of a large ensemble or even mini-orchestra. But thoughts about production details quickly fall by the wayside when one is enraptured by music of such heartbreaking beauty. The gorgeous title track, for example, is distinguished by a series of lilting episodes for piano and strings that are, by turns, delicate, graceful, and mournful. It's hardly the album's only captivating moment, however: the second piece, “The World We Live In,” is striking, too, even if its yearning tone is conveyed via more urgently rhythmic and percussion-rich means. Elsewhere, the strings-heavy intro to “Blue Loving Serotonin” asserts itself with an unabashed romanticism that recalls a typical Michael Nyman ballad setting, while the brief “In Between Worlds II” communicates its emotional yearning through strings exclusively.
The intense emotional dimension of his music makes Plano an ideal candidate for soundtrack composing. Based on the evidence at hand, it would be easy to imagine seeing his name scrolling amongst the credits at the end of some future major film production. One comes away from Impetus more than a little impressed by its creator's instrumental prowess, struck by the confidence and command with which he modulates moods and dynamics, and stunned by the degree of compositional maturity demonstrated by Plano on only his second album.