One Two Three Four Five: a marriage of piano and electronics made in heaven

Bart van Dongen & Richard van Kruysdijk, One Two Three Four Five, Opa Loka Records, CD digipak (2018)

Pianist Bart van Dongen and electro-experimentalist Richard van Kruysdijk form a tag team to treat the strings and sounds of a grand piano in ways you’d never think possible … and the result is this very beautiful and beguiling album, modestly named after the untitled five tracks. From the outset, the dynamic Dutch duo lead their listeners into a magical dream world that looks back to an idealised romantic age when grand piano reigned as queen of all musical instruments and at the same time forward into an ethereal space of floating electronic tone and drone. Past and future embrace to produce a wonderful offspring of rare and exquisite refinement. One could float away forever on this magic carpet of piano melody threaded through with electronic fuzz and tone in a space that seems empty yet beckons with a myriad of strange possibilities.

My only gripe with this recording is that the tracks simply aren’t long enough to savour in the way weekends are never long enough to enjoy. I feel that each piece should at least be 10+minutes just to luxuriate in – but I guess wanting more will spoil the enjoyment and it’s the very transience of a couple of tracks that makes them special. Admittedly a couple of the longer tracks might meander without an end goal for some people with short attention spans but the music is never repetitive. For me, the most interesting track is “Four”, a squealy soundscape that can leave listeners feeling a bit uneasy that possibly a demon imp has entered this universe unseen and threatens to throw everything into chaos; instead the creature is put into a corner and sulks while the piano and a hard hammer-on-anvil beat surround it, keeping guard. There’s some cage-rattling later in the track but our twosome keep their magic under control.

Each track has a different mood and evokes emotions and memories that may – but not always – overlap with those of other tracks. By the time this album is over, listeners may feel they’ve journeyed far and wide with the Dutch musicians and they may want more. A great feeling to have.

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