Switched On – vaghy: Minimalism (Théque Records)

vaghy

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

After 20 years of playing as part of a band, Hungarian pianist Tamás Vághy is striking out on his own, with little more than a piano and some electronics. His aim was to strip music back to its bare elements, and to rediscover his own art as a performer and composer.

While vaghy plays the piano for the main melodic lines, he also provides the accompaniment through a clutch of analogue synthesizers and even a heavily manipulate zither.

What’s the music like?

Minimalism is a brave title for a new album, for although in this case it means a ‘back to basics’ approach, it also forms in the listener expectations that vaghy’s style will be close to that of Steve Reich or Philip Glass.

That proves not to be the case, but not in a bad way, for this is a thoughtful and often enlightening piece of work. It is also not a straightforward piano album, thanks to vaghy’s treatment of sounds. This is immediately apparent on the opening Rush, with dampeners applied to the tones so that the piano makes a lovely, mottled sound.

vaghy writes with a good deal of movement in his music, but with a stillness at the heart of it where the listener can position themselves. The style also bears similarities to Michael Nyman’s piano work but the tones are lighter on the ear and more evocative.

As Minimalism progresses so there is increased light and shade – the former present in the airy touches of Backwash, which has a lovely rippling effect. The latter qualities are evident in the darker Tripping, with its shuffling rhythm track.

Meanwhile the likes of Lonely and Dawn Light find a special, inward-looking intimacy, while Intention has a lovely turn of phrase and some complementary effects with the Moog, which blossom to a full-bodied and powerful conclusion.

Does it all work?

Yes – Minimalism has enough craft and descriptive colour to stand out from the crowded field in solo keyboard repertoire. Its loops become strangely hypnotic and the attention to detail invested by vaghy is repaid through music of character and subtle shades of colour.

Is it recommended?

Yes. If you like keyboard players such as Nils Frahm then vaghy’s music will definitely appeal, and its subtleties will work their hypnotic touch on many a listener. This is a quiet album – and if you make space for it, the rewards are plenty.

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