Murcof / Vanessa Wagner STATEA

Statea is essentially about augmentation: Murcof's electronics enhancing Vanessa Wagner's piano. But the idea goes further. Statea is the result of an impromptu live performance that took place in 2010 at La Carrière De Normandoux, an old quarry in France that was turned into a contemporary arts centre. One artist's concert was taking place after the other's, so Wagner bridged the gap by playing pieces by Erik Satie. Murcof joined her, and their improvisation has since grown.
Statea revolves around minimalist piano compositions, including Aphex Twin's lyrical "Avril 14th." On the surface, that may seem like a wildcard inclusion, nestled next to Arvo Pärt and György Ligeti, but it's part of a wider narrative: augmenting the minimal music tradition itself. Some selections even pre-date minimalism's 1960s New York origins, ascribed to forefathers La Monte Young, Terry Riley, Steve Reich and Philip Glass. Only Glass appears here, his Kafka-inspired "Metamorphosis 2" concluding Statea with one of the record's purest recordings.  
Statea is less of a music history lesson than a dialogue between its collaborators. When they perform together, Murcof and Wagner take turns leading the charge, and it's the same here. Their version of John Cage's "In A Landscape" starts out with naturalistic playing from Wagner, before Murcof begins smearing the keys like watercolours. His electro-acoustic touches are subtle at first, but become intense enough that Wagner is all but phased out by the end. "In A Landscape" is morphed into something else entirely. "Musica Ricercata No. 2" is more of a melodramatic call and response between the two players. Wagner's playing is dynamic and emotive, but Murcof's rebuttals are more stinging. It goes to show the gulf between traditional musicians, limited to an instrument's physicality, and those with technology's endless possibilities.
For all of its alluring electronics, Statea would be nothing without the clarity of Wagner's piano. It's such contrasts—classical and ambient, the past and the present, the accentuated and the ambiguous—that make the record more than the sum of its parts, sounding richer and more nuanced with every listen. As a snapshot of a performance-based collaboration, Statea is strong, but the project's full scope can only be experienced in the concert halls that birthed it. (
Holly Dicker)

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