Bill Seaman – Erasures and Displacements

A cold piano hides inside a grey hood, slinking around in the shadows, tucking its face away from the world. Only a couple of notes are visible. Although this entrance puts the audience on edge, like a gunslinger walking into a wild west saloon, it isn’t too ominous. It just hangs there, its melodies loitering in and around night-covered parking lots and abandoned suburbs. Erasures and Displacements was built in Ableton using instruments, loops and cut / copy / paste segments which were deleted, reworked, re-edited and added to at a later date. The calming, reclining piano is something that provides instant relief, but paradoxically its minimal appearance can make the heart rate spike. Its cloud isn’t pungent, ala the noxious poison of cigarette smoke, but is similar to a wavering mirage that snakes over the black asphalt in the baking sun, or a candle as it shuffles uneasily on a whisper of thin air; flowing and constricting.

Punctured by a variety of crackles and whooshes, which are able to pierce the primary sound of the piano (albeit in a gentle way), Erasures and Displacements edges its way into dark jazz territory, shuffling like a zombie. Instrumentally, it’s smooth, but the album’s unsettled by the echoing debris, which gets closer…and closer…and closer, upsetting regular rhythms as well as the general mood. It darkens. Just like dragging and dropping a track in the program, the atmosphere itself turns, dragging down the piano and dropping the temperature.

Like a lone tear, sad arpeggios occasionally trickle down its cheeks, its bleak expression an unwanted visitor around aching eyes. While that happens, ice-cold, dismembered electronics scuttle around in the background; phantom limbs that’ve lost their original organs. Their amputated sounds are if anything uncaring rather than malevolent, and a bony-but-coherent body grows out of its dislocated and disjointed history. Sounds stutter and shadows shift. The piano creeps through midnight corridors, its undertones of dark jazz producing that smoky light of a bar just after midnight. Despite the collective gremlins, the tone is like silk, lighting up the music in pale, altered neon. The piano is like a dank streetlight illuminating a couple of threats, but the dulcet tone of the trumpet eases them away. As expected, Erasures and Displacements is an album of great quality. Bill Seaman takes an experimental approach, both musically and in the album’s general philosophy, exploring the gulf that had separated the living instrumentation from the dead, the deleted sections enjoying a reincarnation when all had seemed lost.

(note: I was cleaning my computer’s hard drive earlier this week and accidentally deleted the original draft of this review…d’oh! Given that the album was all about erasures and displacements, I found that to be irony at its finest. Sometimes you’ve just gotta laugh, haven’t you?)

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