Innova Rec. Andy Akiho : No one to know (US/JAP,2011)****
Andy Akikho makes contemporary music with the steelpan as his main instrument, not afraid to change its sound occasionally just like a prepared instrument, with the addition of magnets cutting off the frequencies and range of the pitch, or by attaching rubber bands for snapping pizzicatos (in the Bartok sense) or just to change the timbre.
On each track a different set of colours of sounds are part of the plan. Often his approach hangs between the playing with strong accents, melody and power in a jazz sensibility, with baroque associations in melody and arrangements, mixed with a feeling for a song-like approach, even though these are all instrumentals except one track where the song approach is present, I still prefer it to find its other ways with surprise.
On the second track some strange minimalist ideas are incorporated too, like repetitions, even as much as like a skipping CD. Andy Akiko said a certain colour of sound reminded him of the skipping.
Other places the vibraphones take some more exotic swings (gamelan-like or with Caribbean sun) without being placed really outside a contemporary classical feel. The harmonies and orchestrations are with harp, string and some wind instruments and piano, drums and here and there some electric bass add more rhythmic accents, something changing within one rhythm with lots of strange prepared surprises in the detail. Instead of steelpan some chamber instruments can lead some themes at times as well.
Two pieces or so sound a bit more contemporary classical. An album with a whole variety of idea which overcomes the academic side by its strong and accessible melodic swings and all these surprising changes but which has those academic ideas as well.