Swiss piano and drums duo Hely are Lucca Fries and Jonas Ruther. Their third album, Borderland, has been brewing for a number of years, but it’s conception took a mere two days to complete. Ostensibly this is a jazz styled polyrhythmic battle between the two instruments played in a purely acoustic setting.
Hyoga kicks off the album with a Phillip Glass piano drone-like pulse, with shimmering cymbal splashes and lower end bass notes created simply using the array of floor toms. It becomes obvious by Trance that this music is something quite different to the piano and drum combinations of yore. Borderline sets the minor keys vibe with the piano arpeggio being used in the same way as what is being struck by various strikey things.
Each part of this album sets its own world to explore. Opio introduces a drum only landscape of woodblock and metal, evoking industry in a smoke-strewn smog stressed city, whilst Cluster is back in the jazz club (“nice!”) with simple chords played over a busy set of sticks in 10/4 time – a little like the title track from Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays’ As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls, but without anything electric going on.
The longest track, Chopin Space Station, is loosely based on Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata; the DNA is there but only what has survived and been locked away in the tower. If it is about space then the gradual discordant notes and keys tell of an environment where only the thin fabric of a suit stands between life and death. It is a compelling listen and you hope the minor resolves into something happier, but that cadence is never reached – instead it just stops breathing and peace is found…
Recorded in Hely’s own nuclear fallout shelter, you can hear the icy permafrost of the concrete walls as the 1920’s Welmar short piano and bunker packed percussion workshop bounce around with natural reverb and resonance, meeting with the po-faced ghosts of the Cold War era. A synaesthetic experience with the sound evoking monochromatic colour splashes that hypnotise the senses. Over an hour of addiction ensues and further cravings to return to this minimalistic music will never leave you.
01. Hyoga (8:21)
02. Trance (8:47)
03. Borderland (7:50)
04. Opio (2:49)
05. Cluster (9:10)
06. Josyne (9:55)
07. Kanazawa (7:34)
08. Chopin Space Station (10:58)
Total Time – 65:29
Lucca Fries – Piano
Jonas Ruther – Drums & Percussion
Record Label: Ronin Rhythm Records
Country of Origin: Switzerland
Date of Release: 26th March 2018
– Rapture (2015)
– Jangal (2016)