The versatility of Sebastian Plano, in terms of compositional and performance ability, is well evidenced in this thoughtfully arranged programme of music for piano, cello and voice. Touches of electronic processing sparingly add a slightly different dimension to the natural sound. Plano asserts his desire to define his own “authentic, unique voice”, though it is hard to imagine this son of two Argentinian orchestral players being totally sealed off from the classical tradition.
Nevertheless, his arrangements illustrate some undoubted touches of originality. To what extent many modern high quality piano-based pieces can be entirely divorced from the influence of Debussy is an interesting argument of some relevance here; yet, much of this album does strive, and often very successfully, to create Plano’s own soundscape. Some of the sonic effects in opener “Agos” do call to mind the wondrous gamelan sound that, in the late nineteenth century, so entranced the French composer. (The ongoing developments of this and the evolution of ambient music through the twentieth century are so well explored by David Toop in his masterly and very accessible book, Ocean of Sound.)
Plano is absolutely correct when he insists “I definitely don’t make New Age music”. There is intelligence, structure and some unsettling diversions on Save Me Not. The subtle tonal shifts in “A Present for a Young Traveller” undercut any hint of predictability. There is a sense of unity in the track, while disparate elements are individually brought out.
The combination of natural piano sound and that of an electronically-treated sibling is especially effective in “Obsequence”, while there is a fine demonstration of just how varied a cello sound can be on the lovely “Soul I”, giving way to contrasting piano rhythms in “Soul II”, before re-emerging with some subtlety as a type of prelude to the plucked strings of “Soul III”. It’s an imaginative sequence that conveys much of what impresses on this convincing album.