Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Matthias Frey 's Art Profiles, Sonoton 304 from 1988 (?) -- a really remarkable library album

This is a completely unknown little record that is really quite well-written.  I was reminded of it when reading the review articles of Matthias Frey's earliest oeuvre over on prognotfrog -- which I sincerely hope are still available for the consumption of those still curious and unenlightened.  Of course when it comes to Frey, anonymous oblivion is all the rage, he really should be lauded as an equal to the great Chick Corea if there were an honest appraisal of serious music in our society: there was a period in the late seventies starting with Psi to the late eighties (up till this record) when he just about hit genius level every time, a virtuoso in both performance and composition, each one 'out of the ball park' as the expression goes.  Yet it wouldn't surprise me if he further endured the humiliating pummeling of a double oblivion, forgotten after being so briefly resuscitated online, because today the test of time for music -- to be preserved for posterity -- is at the kindergarten level really...  and I don't think any of his early works have been rereleased to CD...

In genre this is a typical library record with all kinds of dramatic sounds and ideas, and the back even gives you the requisite generic descriptors, but the compositional skills are what make this exceptional.  You'll note that it sure starts off slowly with no rush to become interesting for the progressive fan, but midway through the first side I'm sure you will start to perk up and listen hard as his trademark staccato-style (Papillon) and some stravinskyesque polytonalities (Lost in Dreams) force you to take notice, particularly when the highly expressive cello starts up, very reminiscent of the earlier albums he did with his buddy Tiepold  (who, I can confirm, is the performer here-- of course!).  Thus, A6's "Pianocello:"

Note at the start he plays the bass C on the grand piano by damping the string with his finger, reaching inside the instrument, rather than using the intrinsic dampers in the piano.  Very cool effect.

On track A8 about the pencil (Le crayon) the electric piano evokes quite admirably the imagined scene of an artist sketching some fascinating visual, a caricature possibly according to the back, who reappears as a 'crazy pencil' on side b psychologically and nomenclaturally perhaps different but musically not so much.  On the next track with digital organ sounds called the Harlequin, a jumpy series of chords reminds me of Egberto Gismonti's wonderful fantasia-like pieces for keyboards, perhaps inspired a little by Ravel.

On side B, the track called "Guernica" oddly is melancholy rather than battle-like or cubist / angular, the presumed inspiration.  I still remember when I first saw that painting at the MOMA in NYC as a young univ. student, along with the other masterpieces of the early 20th century housed there, today (to my eternal shame) I am more interested in their michelin-level restaurant  (called The Modern) than their art, on a recent visit I was utterly shocked by the quality of the food and apparently it's quite popular among New Yorkers as well, make sure to reserve far in advance though if you are curious to try it...  such is the inevitable progress of western civilization... let no one dare stand in its way...

The last track, called appropriately "Der Abschied" (farewell) is simply a gorgeously mournful meditative elegy, with a really successful combination of synths and that oh-so plaintive cello:

So far as I know, this was the last of the really brilliant progressive albums he did, after this, he moved more into the new age territory which -- obviously -- we have no appreciation for whatsoever here.  In all honesty, both Ypsilon (1988) and Liquid Crystal (1994) did have its moments, but it was really a ride down the steep downslope of a bell curve that at one time with its maxima truly was able to touch heaven.

Great cover on this album too, right?  (Credit: Manuel Neuhaus.) Although derived from Magritte's conception the colour palette and landscape are totally unlike him.  Not the sort of thing you see too often now, in the CD era.  And certainly worthy of the Museum of Modern Art in any city...


  1. so great julian.just look here some extremely nice funky library!!!!
    if you have any album it would be great!!!!!

  2. Interesting, I never heard of this artist

  3. Julian, if possible would you provide a sendspace link for this M.Frey album. Thank you!

  4. NEW LINK in sendspace:

  5. Thank you again Julian, Frey was a recent discovery for me so I am looking forward to hearing this.