Stéphan Oliva: Coïncidences (RJA 397004)


Stéphan Oliva

Stéphan Oliva piano, Fender Rhodes
Bruno Chevillon double bass, typewriter
Recorded on April 4/5 and mixed on June 16, 2005 at Studios La Buissonne by Gérard de Haro
Mastered by Nicolas Baillard at Studios La Buissonne
Produced by Gérard de Haro and RJA for La Buissonne
Release date: November 10, 2005

“I had jumped off the edge, and then, at the very last moment, something reached out and caught me in midair. That something is what I define as love. It is the one thing that can stop a man from falling, powerful enough to negate the laws of gravity.”
–Paul Auster, Moon Palace

Where most albums of such beauty as this would be considered gifts to listeners, in Coïncidences pianist Stéphan Oliva offers something for readers. Indeed, this largely solo program of self-styled “book music” takes its inspiration from the writing of Paul Auster, whose clear-cut prose draws Oliva’s responses beyond the delineation of a mere soundtrack, constituting instead their own form of textual appreciation.

The album is framed by an arco sketch, via guest bassist Bruno Chevillon, of Jerome Kern’s “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes,” replete with the sound of a typewriter. The writer’s classical instrument makes further appearances in “Olympia’s Lullaby,” which evokes reading under lamplight, and an aphoristic improvisation called “Fuite–Poursuite–Suite.” In both we find ourselves awakening within as the world without falls asleep.

With the exception of a few appearances by Fender Rhodes (e.g., the nocturnally inclined “Levitation”), the album opens the piano itself like a book. The physical properties of literature are keenly explored across its keys. Given the studio in which he was recorded, Oliva takes full advantage of the space afforded him, wherein intimacy can be cultivated like a vocabulary. In “La Traversée,” which makes two appearances, we nearly expect a voice to sing, but the only words available to us are implied by movement over speech, melody over meaning. Such lyrical extensions of the printed word swirl around us in “En Aparte” and “Ghosts Of The Stereoscope.” Like a face turning to glance at something that would otherwise be forgotten, each is willing to let the details of another scene creep into the foreground.

Such actions, reading not only between the lines but also underneath them, are the musical equivalent of writing notes in the margins of a favorite book and looking back upon them years later with fondness, only now with a different color of pen in hand. Even the more dissonant tracks, like “Portee Disparue” and “Sachs March,” cling to us with their own static electricity, as if born from the pleasure of riffling pages at one’s fingertips.

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