Charity Chan has appeared on two previous Ambiances Magnetiques releases. On those, with the trio Fenaison (Remy Belanger de Beauport on cello, flute and electronics and Kris Colvin on saxophone and voice), her extended piano fell deep within alien abstractions. The Montreal label now isolates her instrument for a solo CD that is a series of beautiful surprises.
Chan distinguishes her technique as "extended," rather than "prepared" piano, in that the objects she uses aren't fixed. In the Cagean tradition of prepared piano, nuts and bolts are put between the piano strings, they are muted with duct tape, or otherwise altered to affect their vibrations. Chan's approach is more like a slide guitarist — handheld objects are moved across the strings, sometimes as she plays but more often being both slide and plectrum.
A piano is not a guitar, however, and the deep resonance of the instrument's big case cannot be, shouldn't be and isn't hidden. Somewhere the sea and salt is an eminently pianistic record. The first half of the disc tends toward greater extension, with techniques employed that are not dissimilar to the work of Denman Maroney. The microphones are set so close that the listener is put alongside the tin pans and metal bowls inside the case. It's unorthodox music for sure (although the language of altered piano is starting to become codified), but it's also warm and musical. Which makes it all the more surprising, just past midpoint, when Chan reveals herself as a strong, classically trained player. The piano begins to sing, to proclaim its presence, making its way through the applied rattles and mutes. The instrument's natural voice then disappears again on the beautiful "Silent Sands," a piece built around a gentle midrange drone that sounds as if it might be generated with an E-bow. By the lovely closing track, "J'ai manque son depart," piano and player seem to have found compromise as harpsichord. The 14 tracks are quite a workout, and Chan proves herself to be a talented and inventive player.
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