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Panoptique Electrical – Five Pianos

Panoptique Electrical – Five Pianos

Panoptique Electrical is the project of Australian multimedia artist Jason Sweeney. Five Pianos is his third album for the Sound In Silence label after the acclaimed Disappearing Music For Face in 2016 and Quiet Ecology in 2017. Having enjoyed his previous works I was keen to hear this latest release. On Five Pianos Sweeney performs five prolonged piano pieces. The clue was in the title folks! The intention here clearly is to evoke a sense of space and quiet. This he achieves and then some. Five Pianos is so still it is almost inert.

The press release pitches the album as one for fans of Harold Budd or Library Tapes. In all sincerity, Five Pianos makes any Harold Budd album sound like thrash metal. It’s too spacious, too ambient and misses the pronounced soft pedal sustain that trademarks Budds iconic releases. Some tracks almost had me questioning my critical faculties. Second piece, ‘It Rains Tonight’ sounds so ponderous as to be almost one-fingered. Was this a test, a leg pull, a joke? No joke. The one positive spin I could grasp at was ‘installation’. Five Pianos I thought would work in somewhere like The Tate Modern or the Pompidou Centre. And fair play to Sweeney as this is precisely the intention. According to the Sound In Silence Bandcamp blurb, Five Pianos is designed for theatres or museums. As well as creating a sense of space the album aims to “thread together a prepared piano sound evocative of weather shifts, radio frequencies, pulsation of electromagnetic vibrations and a resignation to human sadness” Against these metrics the album succeeds. Shorter pieces work best. ‘The Lighthouse’ and ‘Doors Leading Where’ are more cinematic. I still can’t help but wonder whether the album offers enough for the paying home listener.

Five Pianos is a limited edition of 200 handmade and hand-numbered collectible copies. It is packaged in a lovely hand-stamped 127mm x 127mm 250 gsm greyish white recycled cardboard envelope with the front cover image printed on a polaroid style photo paper and an insert sheet containing tracklist and information printed on a 120 gsm smoky grey recycled cardboard.