The Weekend Was Modern: six solo piano pieces for times when life is dark

Filalete, The Weekend Was Modern, Russia, Perfect Aesthetics, AEST-052 cassette limited edition (2020)

For those times when life seems dark and the future – especially the future after the COVID-19 pandemic and the hysteria that has accompanied it – is uncertain for so many people and so many nations around the world, this modest cassette of six solo piano pieces by Filalete is a very appropriate little soundtrack. Filalete is the project of Georgian pianist Irakli Bakuradze, a piano graduate of the Tbilisi State Conservatoire who also plays guitar and two types of woodwind instrument (balaban and duduk) native to the Caucasus region. The pieces for this work were composed over 2018 – 2019 and are connected by a common theme of sadness, nostalgia for happier times and foreboding about the future.

The cassette medium might not necessarily be the best format for presenting these pieces – there’s always that bristly background noise going on – but with regard to mood and ambience, it does heighten the sense of time passing by and memories being forgotten, and the pain and sadness of the mood as the piano’s tones fade into tendrils of continuous white noise are very stark. (Maybe I’ve been listening to too many recordings of hiss and nostalgia from Jim Haynes’ Helen Scarsdale Agency label as well.) All six pieces are short and very minimal in presentation and structure, usually a melody looping over and over. The simplicity of these tracks seems ridiculous in the extreme, yet in the way Filalete plays them, the sadness, the longing, the bleak attitude and the pain of just trying to get through the day when darkness is pressing in on you can be impressive. The music makes good use of space in its pacing and in creating an atmosphere ranging from bleakness to hope.

I can see why this recording is as low-key as it is: in themselves the tracks would pall very quickly if they were any longer than four minutes and the artist would need to introduce other instruments and themes which would muddy the original intent of these small works. Filalete certainly has talent in expressing emotion and mood in playing piano but we may have to wait for more recordings from this artist to see his full potential as a pianist and composer.