Kevin Keller

Gathering Leaves

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Pianist/composer Kevin Keller characterizes the music on this ten-year retrospective collection as "classical space music," citing such influences as Claude Debussy and Umberto Eco. Fair enough, but a more obvious precursor is Harold Budd, whose impressionistic piano compositions helped to define the "ambient" idiom when he paired up with Brian Eno in the late '70s. Keller is actually at his most interesting when using synthesizers to create otherworldly washes of sound, as he does on the long but wonderful "Arc of the Pendulum," or to approximate the sounds of wind and insects on the dark but lovely "Goethe Park." When he's playing acoustic piano he has something of a tendency to slide into dewy new age goopiness (there's just not much "there" there on the title track, for example), although cellist David Darling brings out some of Keller's inner strength on the nicely contrapuntal "Blossoms of Change." Ultimately, this music is rather difficult to get a handle on, because it's hard to keep the mind focused on it for any appreciable length of time. That's not a criticism -- this stuff seems to be intended to induce meditative thoughts about deep subjects rather than a focus on the music itself. Recommended.

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