Albums such as Pianocircus's Skin and Wire may not be in contention to win polls such as Sea of Tranquility's "best of the year" award, but that does not mean that they are without merit, or that they should not be in your CD collection. Most progressive music fans enjoy a touch of jazz, especially when it is blended with other influences. Skin and Wire blends jazz with ambient, or maybe that should be ambient with jazz, because the overriding feel of the album is of creating an ambience. The music, predominantly quiet and peaceful, could form the soundtrack of a movie of your own creation. Just sit back and relax....
Pianocircus was originally formed in 1989 as a six-piano ensemble, using either acoustic grands or digital pianos. The group uses these instruments in combination with MIDI and various electronica. On Skin and Wire the ensemble team up with Bill Bruford, widely renowned for his drumming skills both as a jazz and rock artist, to play the music of Colin Riley. Colin is a modern British "classical" composer who is known for exploring the integration of both improvisation and electronic elements: in effect a fusion taking ideas from the classical, rock and jazz worlds. On this showing, it works!
The results, as evidenced by Skin and Wire are always enjoyable, whether you choose to listen intently, focussing on the nuances of the performers' forays, or have the music on as an aid to meditation, or ambience setting. Pianos and synthesizers are much in evidence (played by the ensemble of David Appleton, Adam Caird, Kate Halsall and Semra Kurutaç) but, despite the name of the ensemble, there are other enjoyable sonorities: Julian Crampton's bass guitar and, of course, Bill Bruford's richly diverse drum and percussion playing, from which the main jazzy vibe of the music arises.
As an aside, the promo notes say that this will be Bruford's last album of fresh material. If that proves to be true then it is a sad day because he is clearly still at the top of the game. Still, after some 40 years in the business, who would begrudge him some rest? But can a jazz musician ever rest? Watch out for a few live appearances....
In any case, should the promo company be right, then this is a very fitting way for Bruford to end his album-making career! It is a fine album that should be enjoyed by all progressive fans with a metal hangover!
1) Kit and Caboodle (7:10)
2) Pale Corridor (6:39)
3) Stalling Between Two Fools (5:36)
4) The Still Small Voice (7:54)
5) Achilles' Feel (7:22)
6) Without a Hand to Hold (for JM) (2:49)
7) Squiggle Zipper (9:58)
8) Tear (2:43)
9) Ebb Cast (9:47)