Melaine Dalibert - Cheminant (CD)
This is French composer/pianist Melaine Dalibert's third solo piano album, following his well-received 2018 album 'Musique pour le lever du jour' (elsewhere 002) and 2017 album 'Ressac' (at111). Artwork by David Sylvian, design by Yuko Zama. 4-panel gatefold wallet.
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1. Music in an octave (2018) 13:15
- for David Sylvian
2. Percolations (for right hand) (2018) 5:30
- for Yuko Zama
3. From zero to infinity (2019) 4:36
- for Peter Garland
4. Cheminant (2018) 21:24
- for Reinier van Houdt
5. Étude II (2017) 11:13
(released June 22, 2019)
all compositions and piano by Melaine Dalibert
recorded by Herve Jegaden and David Launay at HD Studio
in Saint Maugan, Brittany, France in February 2019
mixed and mastered by Taku Unami
mixing advice by David Sylvian
artwork by David Sylvian
design by Yuko Zama
produced by Yuko Zama
special thanks to: David Sylvian and Cyril Jollard
p+c 2019 elsewhere music
'Cheminant' contains a diverse array of Melaine Dalibert's unique compositions for solo piano, ranging from the up-tempo rhythmic 'Percolations' performed masterfully by Dalibert's right hand, to the slow, prolonged meditative 'Music in an octave' and 'Cheminant', to the kaleidoscopic 'Étude II' with the repetitive hammered chords, and lastly his latest piece 'From zero to infinity' dedicated to post-minimal composer Peter Garland.
All five pieces were composed by Dalibert in 2017-2019, reflecting his current interest in questioning how the harmonic shifts could affect the listening experience with subtly evolving chords through a scale or different tones, creating a similar state to vertigo. Diverse as they may seem, all five pieces attain delicately balanced harmonization of rich layers of the woody, warm direct tones of the piano, overtones and resonances, blended to form a complex harmonic beauty exquisitely delivered with Dalibert's virtuosic piano techniques.
Marc Medwin, Dusted Magazine
"The myriad and pulsing tones imbuing a church bell sounding"
There is no composer more completely enraptured by sonority than Melaine Dalibert, but his simplicity can be deceptive. These piano pieces, written between 2017 and 2019, are no mere exercises in motion and stasis, though both evolve and revolve within each work, often evoking that elusive and liquid moment when day becomes night. Dalibert has achieved the remarkable feat of presenting the tonal language as both traditionally referential and “other,” rendering it both absolutely relevant and somehow piquantly obsolete.
Motion, or lack thereof, or maybe it’s motion’s strange and elaborately masked bedfellow, the one we call repetition when no other word will suffice, solidifies the fluid worlds of Dalibert’s harmonies. Unlike previous releases on Another Timbre and Elsewhere, we are afforded the opportunity to hear his language unfold in pithy miniature, as on the surprisingly brisk “Percolations,” dedicated to Elsewhere curator and owner Yuko Zama. Pointing out post-Ligetian pitch addition, minimalist rhythmic tendencies or shifting harmonic anchors straight out of progressive rock’s heyday would be far too pedestrian, not to mention a bit of a blow below the belt, but listen to those harmonies and rhythms evolve! Each note becomes an anchor, and the piece moves quickly enough so that each anchor becomes one note in something approaching the melodic complexity of counterpoint. The fact that Dalibert brings the whole thing back to the open fifth on which it began is as astonishing as the harmonic byways he explores to get there. Dalibert’s performance — he’s a wonderful pianist — is rife with subtle accents, and whether or not they’re in the score, they give this piece written solely for the right hand additional layers of rhythmic and tonal complexity. “From Zero to Infinity”’s range is even further simplified as it climbs from two opening pitches toward a colorful chord both familiar and alien in its near non-resolution, but again, each tone becomes an internal voice as almost-melodies mutate in overtonal kaleidoscope.
What I am not articulating is paramount to the listening experience, and it isn’t for lack of an attempt. What chance does the willing and able listener really have of describing a waterfall’s sonic layers, or the myriad and pulsing tones imbuing a church bell sounding? To these ears, the disc’s standout composition is the absolutely spellbinding “Music in an Octave.” Someone should put together an analysis of this glacially moving study in sonority type, something along the lines of related chord groups and the permeable boundaries of tonal center. Even having said that, they do not add up to the effect this masterpiece of churchy textures manages with every aggregate’s bite, bloom and decay. Those open to experiences of the mystical variety may be at home in this luminescent garden of flickering upper partial flame. The piano is recorded and mixed in such a way that the various components of each tone foreground themselves even as they evaporate, but they only constitute the minutia of a form closer in large-scale intent to a movement from one of Roland Kayn’s vast electroacoustic canvasses. Both composers relish note implications as they manifest along a superficially facile but secretly serpentine path. The recording is of the utmost importance. Only recently are piano timbres being captured so that each detail, even those normally imperceptible in the concert hall, is placed front and center in the listener’s perception.
It is fitting that David Sylvian is credited with mixing advice. As Dalibert has radicalized harmony, surreptitiously building internal melodies of its components, Sylvian has radicalized melody by deftly and completely recontextualizing it, casting it in an entirely new landscape of timbre and tone. Cheminant inhabits territory similar to Sylvian’s quietly groundbreaking Manafon, on which tonality is also present but, remarkably, absented, or perhaps absented, negating itself in long-range. Would it be too bold to suggest that a collaboration between these two musical visionaries might be in order? (9/10/2019)
John Eyles, All About Jazz
With the release of Cheminant French composer and pianist Melaine Dalibert achieved the honour of being the first "return visitor" to Elsewhere; this album is the successor to the label's second release Musique pour le lever du jour which featured Dalibert playing one sixty-one-minute composition, with his use of note clusters and the piano's sustain pedal producing an impressive and memorable performance.
Rather than covering the same ground again, on Cheminant he performs five shorter pieces, totalling fifty-two minutes. Dalibert shows a spirit of generosity by dedicating pieces to David Sylvian who created the album's artwork, the label's proprietor Yuko Zama, composer Peter Garland, and pianist Reinier van Houdt (see below). Across those four pieces, ranging in length from four-and-a-half to twenty-one-and-a-half minutes, Dalibert's writing and playing is readily identifiable as the source of his previous album, the music displaying the same fascination with sound and a willingness to let notes resound and linger in the air; one can almost visualise Dalibert savouring the beauty of what he has written.
The fifth piece, "Etudes II," dates from 2017, and is in stark contrast to the preceding four, from 2018-19. Although it reveals the same care and attention to detail, it is performed at a brisk tempo and does not allow notes the same space to resound; consequently, its eleven minutes flash by and seem guaranteed to set toes tapping and to send listeners back for more. Yes, the whole album is well up to Dalibert's usual high standard. (7/28/2019)
Michele Palozzo, Esoteros
In the middle of the 20th century, while the cultured European avant-garde beat the impervious paths of serialism, the New York School was searching with increasing freedom for a transcendent dimension of sound, time and the space that it inhabits. It could have been a “transfigured” physical place, like the Dream House by La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela, or, as in Morton Feldman’s long compositions, a totally imaginary non-place, a mental horizon manifesting itself through just a fragile and unusual weaving of notes and silences.
So far, the quiet suites of the French pianist Melaine Dalibert have expressed the need to re-instate the right weight on each key, each chord ringed in extended sequences designed to lose the temporal perception and consider the individual acoustic phenomena in their bare and primitive form. After his debut on Another Timbre (Ressac) and the inaugural publication of the Elsewhere label (Musique pour le lever du jour), Dalibert continues with the latter and gathers five works in Cheminant – some of which can be identified as “studies” – with a more varied style, although all inevitably linked to the minimalist imprint that characterizes all his work.
The self-explanatory “Music In An Octave” – dedicated to David Sylvian, once again also responsible for the graphic design – is an exercise in expressiveness within the limited margins of a single octave: like a still life is tinged with lights, shadows and colors always new at each time of day, so the combined chords on the adjacent keys outline a motionless yet ever-changing sound figure, whose contours dissolve within a few seconds and then revive themselves in an almost imperceptible variation, aimed only at emphasizing its quiet presence.
With a completely different vivacity, the right hand draws the rapid aquatic reflections of “Percolations” – with a dedication to Yuko Zama, founder of Elsewhere – whose spiraling mill also develops around the grafting of a single major key, an inheritance of the additive processes typical of early Philip Glass and John Adams’ piano pieces (“Phrygian Gates”, “China Gates”). Of a similar inspiration is the final “Étude II” which, by means of the same pulse-like hammering of the keys, obtains dense and luminous accumulations of resonances, remindful of Charlemagne Palestine’s “Strumming Music”.
The short “From Zero To Infinity” is dedicated to the American composer Peter Garland, a regular 4/4 in which dissonances insinuate themselves so slight as to inspire a sense of impalpable restlessness beneath the “geometric” surface of the piece.
At the end comes the fulcrum of the publication to which it gives its title, dedicated to the pianist Reinier Van Houdt: in the pointillistic manner of the late Feldman, the “Cheminant” suite weaves hieratic ascending quatrains, each of which differs from the previous one for a single note, as well as for the order of the sequence and its intervals; twenty minutes that enjoy the perfect balance of a mathematical formula – where the commutation of the elements keeps the result intact – together with the sublime lightness of a Japanese haiku, the poetic form of a reality and a feeling captured in their purest and most essential features.
It’s in passages like this that the discreet revolution of Melaine Dalibert continues to manifest itself in a crystalline way: music “simple” in theory but insidious in practice, as it requires absolute discipline and dedication for each sound gesture, microcell of a potentially infinite picture that leaves only to the listener the privilege of abandonment, almost of the annulment within a tonal dimension mantled in ivory splendor. (1/1/2020)
Dionys Della Luce, Inactuelles Musiques Singulières
By typing the title of the article, the name of the composer and the title of the album, I made a slip, revealing (of course). The album was titled Chemin Faire , a reference to Jacques Lacarrière's beautiful book published in 1974, subtitled "A Thousand Miles Across Today's France". I do not know if Melaine thought about it, but it's the same idea of paths that we follow as we go along the way, here over the notes. There is no urgency, we take our time. The first title, "Music in an octave", is followed by isolated notes, resonant, for thirteen minutes. The notes as islands that do not form archipelago, which appear and disappear. A very slow walk, one foot forward, then another only when the echo of the first has already dissipated. This is not an ascent or a descent, we do not feel any effort. It is a lifting of harmonics, an appeased listening, each time a little ecstasy, the miracle of an ephemeral advent. We stay inside an octave, the octave as a path that we must not deviate. Within the finite octave, there is virtually infinity, perhaps it is the lesson of this path of humble lights.
The second title, "Percolations (for the right hand)", evokes infiltrations, a porosity between sound layers that succeed each other at high speed, mix, intertwine to the point of forming a shimmering casting paradoxically almost motionless. It is a bright brook illuminated by the sun which shimmers on the stones of the bottom, a snake sound which captivates us in its circles of money, a splendor that one would like inexhaustible ...
"From zero to infinity", variation of two modules of four notes, awakens more directly the idea of a stubborn walk, perhaps a long ascent, the two modules overlapping, crossing each other. We advance little, but we advance, we know that one can go very far, just let yourself be carried by the light that emerges at every step, never exactly the same, always exciting.
The eponymous title, a little over twenty-one minutes, explores a path less obvious than the previous ones. This is the title closest to the universe of Morton Feldman , while the three previous ones could be related more or less to a minimalist approach. Let's hear: I'm not talking about compositional techniques, I know Melaine uses algorithms, and so on. What interests me is the effect on the listener. Here, the kind of stupor provoked by a sound universe that plays on memorious reconciliations and subtly foils them, while being of a rigor as far as Feldman is concerned. No ghostly wandering in "Cheminant", a labyrinth at once tight, stifling, and releasing at the bend of a note, a resonance, a real mystery. We do not move forward, each probe note looks for. It is a spiritual exercise, a climb to Carmel where every surge is a fragment of pure beauty removed from the unfathomable.
With the Etude II, the disc returns to a minimalism almost frenetic based on canons of loops which, I say it immediately, suits me quite as well. I am so happy that a French composer is exploring these continents that the Americans have added to our ears! Sometimes we get closer to the "strumming" of a Charlemagne Palestine , a great carillonneur before the Lord who loves the tireless hammering of a note or several. So the piece takes a hallucinatory turn that allows us to take off austere ecstasy proposed by the previous pieces. Beautiful flight! (8/31/2019) *English translation
Eyal Hareuveni, The Free Jazz Blog
Cheminant presents the diverse aesthetics of French pianist-composer Melaine Dalibert. This is the third solo piano for elsewhere, following his first one for the elsewhere label that focused on one, extended composition, Musique pour le lever du jour (2018), and his debut one, Ressac (Another Timbre, 2017). The five pieces on Cheminant, all composed by Dalibert between 2017 and 2019 and recorded in Saint Maugan, France in February 2019, can be considered as studies in different schools of minimalism. These pieces reflect Dalibert’s interest in questioning how the harmonic shifts could affect the listening experience with subtly evolving chords through a scale or different tones, creating a similar state to vertigo.
The first four pieces of Cheminant are dedicated to colleagues and friends. The opening one, “Music in an octave”, is dedicated to David Sylvian who designed the artwork and advised about the mixing, and corresponds with Sylvian’s latest, poetic abstract-ambient works with its prolonged, resonating and meditative sounds. “Percolations (for right hand)”, for elsewhere founder, artistic director and producer Yuko Zama, is a rhythmic piece that sound as if it dances around itself until losing any sense of direction, “From zero to infinity”, dedicated for American post-minimalist composer Peter Garland, returns to a slow, minimalist mode that calls for another meditation about the accumulated effect of such listening experience. The longest, 21-minutes title-piece is dedicated to Dutch fellow pianist and composer Reinier van Houdt and expands even further and wider the enigmatic meditative ambience, as the highly disciplined delivery of single notes, their resonating sounds and their overtones float slowly through the deep space of the recording studio, gently disappear within each other. Dalibert performs this study in deep meditation with great control and exquisite beauty. The last piece “Étude II” is an exception with its up-tempo, almost playful insistence on repetitive hammered chords. (9/14/19)