5 Against 4

[Mixed] in its results is Miniaturised Concertos, a double album on the Metier label of piano-focused music performed and/or organised by pianist Kate Halsall. The first disc is not so much problematic as simply aloof: Andrew Poppy‘s rich minimalistic textures quickly grow tedious, plenty of gloss but nothing much beneath; Colin Riley‘s exploration of percussive sounds resonated by action from the piano has its moments but at twenty minutes is way overlong, made more engaging with some quite exciting textures that develop into an atmospheric soundworld with electronic shimmerings, but which remains a little too static. Even the normally reliable Naomi Pinnock and Philip Cashian barely convince: Pinnock’s convoluted, athletic moto perpetuo alternating with soft clicks leading to a fragmented, stilted ‘conversation’ is more curious than engaging (though its ascetic bloody-mindedness is undeniably admirable), whereas Cashian’s highly repetitive, cycling patterns are far more interesting than Poppy’s in their inexactitude and halting sense of momentum, but again, one’s left shrugging at their machinations. However, the second disc – under the title Maché, in which seventeen short pieces are turned into “multi-composer remixed ‘concertos’”, including indeterminate aspects – provides much richer music. Maché 2 and 3 share an arbitrariness that makes them frustrating and forgettable, but the other two are superb. Maché 1 (melding material by Duncan MacLeod, Simon Vincent, Joel Bell and Ryoko Akama) undergoes a lovely development from isolated pitches into a dense, complex electroacoustic soundworld, later emphasising electric guitar, finally becoming a kind of drone. Maché 4 (material by Richard Glover, Helen Papaioannou, Ruta Vitkauskaite, Rowland Sutherland, Andrew Morgan, Fumiko Miyachi and Devon Tipp) is truly outstanding: resonant chords, dissonant but attractively so, punctuated with hugely powerful and exciting sweeps across piano strings, leading to a pulse-driven episode of momentum and thence into a suspended ambient stasis, laden with spikes in its surging resonant conclusion. At less than five minutes long, it’s the shortest piece on both discs, yet by far the most successful and memorable.

—Simon Cummings