Peter Broderick & Machinefabriek - Blank Grey Canvas Sky (Fang Bomb)
Blank Grey Canvas Sky,” released by Fang Bomb, is the second collaboration between American multi-instrumentalist Peter Broderick and Rotterdam-based Machinefabriek (Rutger Zuydervelt). Their first collaboration merely had Broderick contribute to Zuydervelt’s album “Huis.” But “Blank Grey Canvas Sky” was conceived a joint project from the outset. As such, it better marries the ideas of two musicians with different but compatible styles.
There is a light and airy quality to Broderick’s music, which make use of delicate piano and string arrangements. Machinefabriek, on the other hand, creates soundscapes that feature drones, static hisses, processed guitars, and ambient noises. Despite these differences, their styles complement each other. Broderick’s delicate piano and strings provide a perfect foil for Machinefabriek’s heavier soundscapes.
There is much to appreciate in this album. Each of the six compositions is delicately crafted but musically sound, and has a strong sense of build and release. Piano and string melodies melt into haunting soundscapes. Good examples of well-executed tracks include “Departure” and “Homecoming.” The former develops as an unhurried build, where a sombre piano floats above a background of strings and slowly surging drones. “Homecoming,” the album’s closer, begins with a beautiful interaction between a piano and a moving string melody. Drones and other ambient noises then take over, and slowly release into hushed tones.
The album’s best songs are built around a soulful and searching piano. “Planes,” the most gorgeous song on the album, begins with a stirring piano reminiscent of “Opening” in Philip Glass’s masterpiece, Glassworks. Towards the middle of the song a layer of drones is gradually introduced, pulling the listener fully into Machinefabriek’s domain. “Planes” comes to a dramatic conclusion with the re-introduction of Broderick’s piano. This is the best example of their collaborative effort and a fantastic song.
A few blunders, however, tarnish the beauty of the album. The first of these slip-ups come with the song “Rain.” It begins in an elegant manner. A slow drone builds into a simple yet pretty guitar melody, which is contrasted with a background of static hissing that sounds like rain falling. But this is followed with Broderick and singer Susanna Lundgren breaking into the overdone refrain, “Rain is all sound” (which sounds more like “Rain is awesome”). The refrain is a buzz kill that jolts the listener’s attention from what is otherwise a nice melody. The second misstep occurs in the first half of “Blank Grey.” “Blank Grey” utilizes radio interference, distortions, and sports radio commentaries to create a glitchy percussive element. Yet to the listener this glitchy percussion sounds like pocket change run through a broken coffee grinder. It is jarring, to say the least.
These slip-ups do not detract too much from the album, which at its best is deeply moving. “Blank Grey Canvas Sky,” in short, is a very good collaboration. Broderick and Machinefabriek have produced an album that is on the whole pleasing to the ears, and will be enjoyed by fans of ambient and experimental music. Recommended.