Highlights: Elizabeth Bay, Agdam, Craco, Bakerville
This is the dark side of modern classical.
Hauschka can do the bright side, too (personal favourites being Ferndorf and parts of Silfra), but the concept of Abandoned City begs for something more gruesome and subversive. Which is what you get. The record tries to recreate the chilling feel of abandoned places. It works so well that the cover looks almost cheerful.
“Elizabeth Bay” opens with a heavy, frightening, near-robotic sound that evokes industrial ruins and, naturally, desolation. The piece has terrific dynamics, constantly grows in intensity and occasionally drowns in pounding piano. “Pripyat”, while having more of a bare-bones, unnerving quality to it, is in the same mould. Abandoned City consistently mines accidental beauty in what is essentially frightful and ugly. That it works is especially evident in the slightly more accessible second half of the album. There’s a clearer and more melodic piano sound there, and “Craco” is genuinely pretty. Experimental, too, but mostly pretty.
Imagine a much more ghastly, cluttered version of Steve Reich’s Music For 18 Musicians. Abandoned City is industrial minimalism mixed with piano elegance and steeped in a genuinely dark vibe. It’s a great work, inspired and intense. Recorded, reportedly, in 10 days.