Andrew Liles

The Dying Submariner (A Concerto for Piano and Reverberation in Four Movements)

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Subtitled "A Concerto for Piano and Reverberation in Four Movements," The Dying Submariner is exactly that: four long pieces of slow piano music with a lot of reverb in it. Simple? Yes. Effective? Absolutely. Creepy? You bet. A tad long? Well, probably. The intent is clear: Andrew Liles takes us deep underwater to witness the agonizing death of the Submariner, trapped in his powered-down vessel adrift in the lightless depths of the sea. The music is dark, disquieting, inescapable. The endless underwater space it portrays weighs on the listener's shoulders, becomes oppressive, paradoxically claustrophobic. Liles' score is minimal but sustained, notes constantly echoing in skeletal melodies, crude clusters, and rolling chords. The four movements are all 15- to 20-minutes long. The whole 72-minute experience does get a bit tiresome, although the feeling enhances the isolation aspect of the concept; still, parts two and three could have been shortened without compromising the structure of the work. On the other hand, the delicate "Part I" is perfect the way it is and constitutes the highlight of the album, thanks to wider dynamics, especially a gripping use of quiet piano resonances. The appearance of chime-like tones at the end of "Part IV" also has a unexpected dramatic impact. The album was released by Beta-lactam Ring in three different versions: the widely available CD version reviewed here, a significantly reworked (and shorter) limited LP version, and a limited two-CD version with a bonus work, "The Dead Submariner (A Concerto for Bowed Guitar and Reverberation in Three Movements)."

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