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Review: Benoit Delbecq "The Weight of Light"

By Hrayr Attarian

Benoît Delbecq

The Weight of Light

Benoît Delbecq - piano

Even after a long career as a masterful improviser and composer, pianist Benoît Delbecq continues to astound with each brilliant new release. The superb The Weight of Light is no different. On it Delbecq performs nine expressionistic originals using a prepared piano. Utilizing his instrument’s unique tonalities Delbecq generates abstract soundscapes that are simultaneously ethereal and earthy, emotive and cerebral, angsty and serene.

Delbecq interprets the stimulating “Anamorpheses” with a percussive style. Over the hypnotic refrains of reverberating strings his keys build a crystalline and complex tune. The sparse chimes against the piano’s echoing rhythmic vamps create an ambience of primal spirituality. By manipulating the instrument’s inner workings Delbecq generates repeating and dark motifs. His keyboard issues shimmering cascades of notes. By contrasting these two elements Delbecq creates a sublime overlap of light and shadow.

Elsewhere on “The Loop of Chicago” Delbecq weaves melodic angular fragments into a delightfully dissonant tapestry. With one hand he lets loose contemplative, crisp phrases that linger in the pauses that follow. While with the other he produces booming thuds and expectant thrums with a chant like regularity. The complementary sonic streams of zen like solemnity and acerbic lyricism make for a dynamic piece brimming with both spontaneity and forethought.

One of the more demanding, and rewarding, tracks is the quasi-mathematical “Pair et Impair”. On it Delbecq builds fiery harmonic splinters that bounce off the piano’s innards’ peeling refrains. This collision results in lilting trajectories that nevertheless make for a tense atmosphere that goes from somber elegance to dramatic disquietude.

This captivating work closes on a hauntingly intimate mood with the melancholic “Broken World”. Delbecq “un-prepares” the piano for this achingly gorgeous coda. His lithe and agile lines flow with incandescence and alternate gracefully with poignant silences. The wistful aura and the poetic sense make for a stirring and mystical combination.

The Weight of Light is another innovative addition to Delbecq’s discography. It is provocative without being abstruse and personal without being self-indulgent. It makes for a mesmerizing listening experience one that leads to fresh discoveries with each spin.

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