Petalody

Karoline Leblanc
Velvet Oddities
CANADA atrito-afeito 006 CDR (2016)

This arrived with a hand-written note on a very nice piece of marbled paper. Perhaps the marbling is the work of Karoline Leblanc as well, perhaps not. The design of the cd sleeve is also very striking. A warm-yellow sleeve; a single fold-over piece of card, but professionally printed in full colour; the yellow on the outside augmented with a four bar graphic – three turquoise bars and one red on its face. Upon opening, on the inside the background is red with the same graphic but with one red and three white bars. There is no written information on the inside apart from the indication that these are nineteen individual pieces of piano improvisation. This description is included on the back cover as a helpful subtitle for the casual observer. The longest piece of music is just under four minutes while the shortest is very brief at only 58 seconds. I use the term “music” deliberately; these are very “musical” improvisations; no extended technique, Cageian preparation or augmentation with everyday objects here. These nineteen tracks actually work very well if listened to straight through in one sitting and perceived as a whole piece, or a whole movement. Leblanc demonstrates some very technical playing and clearly she is a very accomplished pianist – I think she plays instruments other than piano as well, namely violin, harpsichord, organ, and most interestingly, the Ondes Martenot: an early electronic orchestral instrument. If you are not familiar with the Ondes Martenot, imagine something not unlike a scaled-up Stylophone. And go and source a copy of Messiaen’s Turangalila Symphony and be amazed. I’d be very interested to hear her tackle the Ondes with a similar approach to this.

She appears to be involved with an improvising scene in Montreal; I think her initial entry-point some time ago being through free-jazz. She runs the atrito-afeito label with another musician, the improvising drummer, Paulo J Ferreira Lopes. I think Velvet Oddities is a very impressive piece of work with a good flow throughout the course of the album. Indeed, with this many short pieces, I’m sure a lot of thought would have gone into the sequencing of tracks, which benefits the material greatly. It works very well; is very dynamic, and because of the high level of technique, a lot of it is leaning towards – or revealing the influence of – classical piano music more than it is Electro Acoustic Improvisation. But that’s no bad thing. Yeah, I like it. Edition of 100.

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