This album marks a leap forward for Bernd Schurer, whose previous two CDs for the Swiss label Domizil came out billed to the moniker Teleform. Vexations is more mature, coherent, and pleasant. By putting the piano at the heart of the music, Schurer draws a parallel between his album and the CD Instabil by labelmate Reto Mäder (aka rm74) -- same melancholy, same extensive treatment of the instrument. Where things differ is in Schurer's melodic use of the piano. Heavily inspired by the music of Erik Satie and Serge Gainsbourg, his melodies are not just used as the sound source for a web of transformations; as untreated compositions, they occupy key spots in the 28-track, 60-minute program. The best moments occur when Schurer lets a left-hand accompaniment unfold naturally, while elongating and reverberating the sparse notes of the melody with the computer (as in "rules/abstractions.rev"). The piano is always there, recognizable or not. Some pieces feature only heavily filtered sonic residue or backwards notes with the attack cut off, but the mood and pace of the slow-tempo melodies are respected throughout, to a point where the distinction between acoustic and electronic becomes tedious: both piano and computer are obviously -- and successfully -- working hand in hand on the same music. Some critics will be tempted to say that Schurer is doing to the piano what Fennesz did to the guitar with Endless Summer, but a copycat work this is not. The Swiss uses lower levels of noise, pauses more often, and digs deeper into the multiplicity of sound points between acoustics and electronics. If the resulting music is somewhat less involving on an emotional level than Fennesz, it is still a fascinating and ultimately pretty experiment.
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