One of the pianists his label has most kept faith with, their relationship together spanning a few decades, revert to Warp from six years ago for something comparable to this new solo album from the long since fêted Masqualero player Jon Balke.
Not strictly solo piano there are ghostly overdubs dotted judiciously about scything in on 'The Facilitator' for instance. These Balke has described hazily as “distorted reflections and reverberations from the world.”
Like his fellow label artist Tord Gustavsen Balke peels away carefully at his ideas and you somehow gain a certain clarity as you travel with him. Also on a par with Gustavsen, Balke can craft beautifully chiselled chords that have a crispness and pristine beauty to them often agonisingly collected. The overdubs give the solos a warmth and that is their best role and also inject a certain modernity although what electronica fans will make of them is another matter entirely. In spite of their presence Balke has an ancient calm and sense of monastic solemnity to his style. I'd just as prefer to experience Balke without any adornment, however.
'The Assumptions' is the more exploratory of the early tracks but its twitchiness got on my nerves. The oblique side to his style is more to what I'm after and allows a very in the moment sensation and for the purpose of mindfulness this record of ungeneric original composition is just right. I enjoyed Discourses more on the third or fourth listen, and I'll certainly be returning. While definitely not a record that will have you roused and up dancing around the kitchen neither will you be donning a hair shirt. But you may very well go all philosophical. I suppose that's the point.
Out now on ECM. (3 stars)
Jon Balke top. Photo: Gianfranco Rota
Tags: Album reviews