Andrew Tasselmyer recorded Piano Frameworks (Disintegration State, May 21) during 2020’s eerily quiet winter, when masking-up was an essential requirement, Covid police were on patrol and roaming the streets, and nations were caught in the repetitive cycle of lockdown after lockdown. Nine emotive ‘frameworks’ make up the body of the record, its music extending and stretching to the max. A fluid, water-like sound is enveloped in the damp lamination of reverb, its notes bending without any real skeleton, musculature, or definitive form, but still providing a series of glowing harmonies, which, at first, feel anchored and secure. As the music progresses, though, the harmonies begin to decay, and impermanence is a major theme of the record.
Piano Frameworks is also an album of rediscovery, in both the unlimited musical potential of the piano when used as a tool for sound design, and in the rediscovery of musical freedoms, such as the breaking of boundaries and the deconstruction and gradual erasure of genre classifications. Possibilities are always there, ready to be explored, extending beyond the normal field of vision and beyond the horizon, and on Piano Frameworks, Tasselmyer taps into the great unknown with rejuvenated music. This is somewhat contradictory, as the music here is full of life amidst its decay and eventual death, and the record is almost a celebration of the lingering life that’s contained within its dying notes. The record does feel like a rejuvenation, but, as Tasselmyer says, ‘I wanted to give it an overall sense of impermanence. The pianos, the tape machines, and even the cassette that the music is printed on will inevitably degrade, be replaced, or fall apart. It’s all prone to decay’.
Saying that, the music does feel alive, and maybe that’s down to its acceptance of the inevitability of its own decay. Tape machines and other physical equipment will break down, but music can wear away, too. Acceptance is the reason why Piano Frameworks feels and sounds so free and so alive, even as its notes begin to crumble and unspool.
‘Outgrowth’ actually feels like it’s shedding old skin, somehow evolving itself, rather than receding into the distance and reverting back into a silence it once called home. Although the notes are flagging and frayed at the edges, they’re still able to gleam, and the light, syncopated, and shaky rhythm is an injection of vitality; the music will not surrender.
The music will one day fall, returning to silence, but it will do so with a brave face, basking in the light of a glorious victory rather than succumbing to its own weakness and frailty.
The tones are impermanent, like everything else, and they’ve come to accept the fact that nothing lasts forever. But that’s not a reason to give up, and, on the contrary, the music makes the most of the moment, in both potential and quality. Tasselmyer is an old hand at ambient composition, and experience drips from every piece of music: light-infused ambient layers fill in the surrounding areas, adept at expanding the sound, while the piano gently rolls on. Decay doesn’t stop, and it can’t be reversed. There’s no anti-ageing cream to fill in the gaps, or any make-up to conceal its true character, and with tracks like ‘Made New’, the contrasts are there for all to see – that, in spite of its slow death, a part of it is being reborn, making something new, with every ushered breath and every ushered note. The music continues to fade out until the entirety of its sun goes down, but this isn’t melancholic or bittersweet music; it’s as if it already knows that better things are waiting