This first solo album from Sebastian Lexer, a longterm member of Eddie Prévost's London improvisation workshops, is a rare instance of the piano being exhaustively reworked, from the keyboard to the interior. In standard use, the instrument is a marvel of polite engineering, its 88 strings carefully muted and rigorously controlled. In the hands of Lexer, it's a vast web of potential tones and resonances, elegant yet frequently menacing. Exploring it takes a whole range of strategies - carefully bowing strings, messing with the dampers as if picking locks. It's a tense investigation best undertaken alone.
Lexer's piano playing involves several microphones (as did Peter Evans's equally exhaustive 'Nature/Culture' from earlier in the year), strategically placed speakers, as well as a custom software patch recording and feeding sounds back into the mix, sometimes using granular synthesis (hence Lexer's distinctive instrumental credit, 'piano+'). Sparingly used, this sampling escapes the predictability so characteristic of looping and layering - sounds are triggered by certain volumes and pitches, as if occasional memories are seeping back into the room, and the ring modulation applied to some of the samples gives a faint tinge of insubstantiality. In "Rapprochement", long metallic shivers from bowed strings are held frozen in the air before a creaking lower register note suddenly groans into life, a moment as cinematic as a houseguest pausing on the threshold of a haunted mansion. On "Defining Edges" and "Tone" Lexer is mainly at the keyboard, but the piano seems to have been rewired so unfamiliar tones deep inside the machine, somewhere between wood and metal, are being tapped and sustained.
While reed instruments are all about air and pressure, the piano is essentially about sustain. The silky elegance one usually associates with the instrument is a result of careful engineering, so that one string sounds seemlessly after the previous one. On "Dazwischen", the whole mechanism is opened up to the forces of chance and chaos, picking up all kind of ethereal vibrations - a true ghost box.
Derek Walmsley, The Wire (October 2009)