That endangered species – the sharp-minded piano soloist – is still observable, at least from distance. Is it possible nowadays to present a program of over a hour on this instrument without making it sound soaked by savoir-faire, or recurring to (by now customary) inside-tampering trickery? With Multiplicity, Bruce Novack shows that sense of spacing and exploitation of silence go a long way in delivering music from romantic uselessness and incoherent hullabaloo when it comes to the 88 keys.
Except for “Quantum Wall” – a lengthy tape piece constructed via the superimposition of a number of improvisations which ends sounding like a cross of a humongous Charlemagne Palestine and a tsunami – and the final “Again”, a minute of unidentifiable noises, the tracks show the artist’s will to remain equidistant from the extremes, both in the registers and the movement/stillness ratio, but only after having thoroughly explored them. Novack is a technically solid performer gifted with an abnormal independence of the hands to the point that, when one listens to certain impossible-to-decode runs juxtaposed with apparently disjointed yet rock-hard clusters, believing that we’re in front of a lone doer becomes difficult.
Some pieces also hint to Feldman-related significances, being characterized by extended sections where stasis is even more important than harmonic progress. This is precisely what distances Novack’s work from the mass, as he finds a fine balance between absence and presence while managing to repeatedly educe interest, listeners expecting the subsequent events fully confident in the performer’s sangfroid. You won’t hear neither coquettish nostalgia nor ignorant banging here. Everything seems to fall in its place at the very right moment, chords, flurries and single pitches popping out like mushrooms wherever necessary.
An album for which the expression “momentary infatuation” is pushed aside in favour of a gradual increase of the resolve to comprehend. Elements that are pretty well known get displaced in altered combinations, resulting in unpretentious freshness and commercially unviable mistrusting of blueprints. Whichever side we look at it, brilliant stuff.