Surface Tension

MS 092LP MS 092LP

Double LP version. Gatefold sleeve. Pianist and composer, Francesco Tristano, joins forces with one of the godfathers of Detroit techno Derrick May on Surface Tension. Described by the man himself as his "most techno and synth-based project yet," the eight-track effort is both a celebration of electronic instrumentation and the first record Derrick May has worked extensively on for the better part of two decades. "I had to lure him into my studio," Tristano says of May with a smile, "he was like Alice in Wonderland when he saw the synthesizers." Originally developed as a way create new material for Tristano's p:anorig project - a unique live set-up debuted at Barcelona's Sónar festival - Surface Tension grew into a project in its own right. With an instrumentation of analog, digital, classic and modern gear - ranging from Prophets to Moogs, to Rolands and Yamahas - at his and May's disposal, Tristano has aimed to keep processing to a minimum. The pair are not just using these synths, they're paying tribute to them, honoring their rich, recognizable sound palettes. The result is an album that feels, at once, nostalgic and fresh; that feels like an old friend, but one who never ceases to surprise. From the ambient vision of "Esoteric Thing", drifting along to the sound of birdsong, to more beat-centric pieces such as "The Mentor" and the quirky "Xokolade", the equipment, and the love it's been treated with, shines through. Both Tristano and May's individual presences are obvious too, yet work in a way so complimentary to each other as to blur the lines at which they cross. "Pacific FM" is a lesson in uplifting techno, keys fluttering over pad-foot bass; the futuristic Detroit dance of "In Da Minor" is undercut by eerie, unpredictable glass synth-work; "Rocco's Bounce" is free-form jazz tugged into line by structured four-to-the-floor; there's even an itchy, jittering, Decca Records-sanctioned remix of Japanese pianist and general Renaissance man, Ryuichi Sakamoto's classic "Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence". Those hoping for a Francesco Tristano piano album: be duly warned. "The piano is there, but it's more like the shadow of the piano. We don't have the mass of that sound, it's more like the reminiscence of that sound," says Tristano. It gives Surface Tension the aforementioned significance. Tristano hasn't abandoned his roots, yet has simultaneously transcended what it means to be a pianist in the 21st century.