“By The Deep Sea” is the new album from Italian born composer Federico Albanese, and although very distinctly different from his last one “The Blue Hour” (released January 2016), there are still to me common elements here which weave in and out of one another to create a larger insight into the compositional elements that Federico so obviously loves to explore and play with.
“By The Deep Sea” is one of those rare moments where I have heard an artist perform live first then immediately decided that I not only had to track down their latest work, but also explore their previous works. Federico was recently in Edinburgh (26 Nov) giving a performance of works from this album and his previous album “The Blue Hour” and it is one of my favourite performances by anyone of 2018. To be honest, I am not sure what exactly it is that attracts me to the music of Federico Albanese, but one part of that attraction is his ability to take you into a special space, a special frame of mind and consciousness that is at times like entering a dream-space that is filled with beautiful and delicate music and sounds, something that at times you feel is so fragile that if you try to analyse it too much it will break apart.
Perhaps the best reference point to start reviewing “By The Deep Sea” is to take an insight from the composer himself and quote from his own website.
“By The Deep Sea is a state of mind in which I find myself quite often. It’s a sort of meditation state, when I try to detach myself from the daily life. In this inner world there is space to get closer to our deepest thoughts, ideas, doubts, close enough to see them clearly, from the right distance, and being able to process them, exorcise them, translate them into something else.”
A special time and inner state of mind is a common thread to Federico’s work here and it was in the last album, but this time we are taking a journey into a different landscape, the inner spaces deep within each of us. That inner, sometimes meditative state of contemplation and self-awareness can be filled with light and joy, darkness and sorrow, and anything in-between often somehow at the same time, and somehow Federico is creating music that not only takes us to this space, but also opens up doors within our inner being to explore. What Federico Albanese finds behind these doors we get a glimpse of in the music on this album. What each of us as listeners find beyond those doors, only we ourselves know as for each of us this journey will be a different one.
The sea of course has its very own music, and for many of us something as simple as watching and listening as the waters move can be a meditative and contemplative experience in itself, and over the 12 works that make up this larger soundscape, Federico has in music captured not only the sounds, but the movement of the sea itself. The relationship between sea, music and the composer is very important here, and that begins with the opening work “682 Steps”, steps which Federico is quoted on his record label’s website page as referencing to being inspired by a path that runs from his mother’s house to a rock by the sea which holds a certain resonance for him, but refusing to be drawn further on the subject. Whatever the full significance of this music is to Federico, with the sounds of waves mixed in with his music, we are immediately taken to somewhere very special with him as our wordless story starts to unfold and we move into the wonderfully contemplative “We Were There”.
Selecting any specific music to review here is honestly difficult for me as this whole work is one carefully balanced larger composition and nothing can really be taken out in isolation from the whole; if you try, you feel like you run the risk of breaking something very special and delicate. Oddly for me though, this work is far from silent in words as the pictures that are being created create stories to me every time that I listen to this album, and even stranger, every time that story is a different one. There are simply so many individual works of beauty here – “Slow Within”, “The Room” and “By The Deep Sea” are personal favourites at the moment, but I know that will change again tomorrow as other work from this album takes their places.
Federico Albanese is clearly one of the modern masters of piano composition, but his merging of electronic keyboards and other sounds is taking him to spaces that one instrument alone could never allow him the freedom to explore, and the combination is something special with endless possibilities. Holding everything together of course is some very classical music for the 21st century that honours classical compositional structures from the past. These two elements of Federico’s music are forever endlessly moving in and out of one another in this music like waves “By The Deep Sea”.
Review by Tom King