Following dalliances with vintage synthesizers on Radioland: Radio-Activity Revisited and Moogmemory, Matthew Bourne returns to the piano for his 2017 outing. Despite swapping the polyphonic synthesizer for acoustic instrumentation, Isotach does share an aesthetic minimalism with its predecessor. Much like Moogmemory, this album works best as headphone music, where isolated intimacy enables the minute details and subtle touches to impress. Equally, there is an emphasis on spacing and silences -- the sound of piano notes fading out is as important as the sound of playing of them. The production has an airiness that makes it feel very present. On the title track, piano keys receive the lightest of touches, but its prettiness is tempered by the compositions atonality. "Isothere" has a deeper, earthier tone, but a similarly unrushed pace. To say the track has a grand build would be overstating it, but the introduction of sharp, high notes, and the faint echoes of cello feels surprisingly dramatic. Some may not have the patience for such sustained minimalism, but the record's deliberate gait is a magical remedy for the world's increasingly hurried pace. And Bourne's music has a delicacy that few musicians allow themselves to trust, opting instead to overfill airspace. Three of the tracks are dedicated to individuals, and it does feel like an intimately personal album. "Valentine" hangs on the ebb and flow of cello, like it's taking deliberately deep breaths, and while it may not get the pulse racing, it's oddly spellbinding and emotionally invested music nonetheless. "Candela's" mournful tone is one of the most acutely moving moments, and the brief yet fittingly romantic "Wedding Mala (For Dave & Nicola)" also features the most complete melody the record has to offer. "Isotherm" is undoubtedly the most dramatic composition on the record. Its barely-there beginning gradually gains in instrumentation and sensation, as Bourne elegantly builds so much with so little. The machine machinations of his previous work have given way to more natural concerns, as record's title hints. Isotach means a line on a map that connects points of equal wind speed, and this feels like an album that's attempting to achieve some sort of equilibrium -- a fragile balance that Bourne goes some way to accomplish. ~ Bekki Bemrose
Mojo (Publisher) (p.89) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "[T]here's nothing throwaway about the delicate, pensive 'Isopleth,' with its spare piano note clusters offset by smears of Bourne's melancholy cello..."
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