Will Dutta may not be so much of a widely recognised name but in the sphere of contemporary music and sound art he has a distinguished background. Starting out as a concert pianist he quickly then progressed into other, more challenging fields. Recent years have seen his music performed in the Tate Modern turbine hall and he has also performed at Ether, the Southbank’s 2010 experimental music festival.
He also helped produce Gabriel Prokofiev‘s groundbreaking Concerto for Turntables & Orchestra (most recently performed at the Royal Albert Hall as part of the 2011 Proms), while his CV also includes posts as Music Co-ordinator at the National Portrait Gallery and creator of the highly respected Blank Canvas club night – which has been active in commissioning several pieces over recent years, including special musical projects by Mark Fell and Leafcutter John.
Such biographical detail supports the view of him being representative of the blurring of lines that has occurred between contemporary classical and electronic composition during the last decade. This is successfully demonstrated on Parergon, his debut album for Just.
At the album’s heart is Overcolour, a 14 minute long suite that moves in unanticipated directions and through varied states. It is one of two collaborations on the album with Warp veterans Plaid, something which becomes clear once the opening piano segues into pulsating, synthetic electronica. It creeps away in a sedate haze, finally drifting off into silence. There are also hints of the spindly, prepared piano sounds favoured by German musician Hauschka.
Distance, the other track featuring Plaid, sees a set of glistening piano plateaux quietly mutate into something more animated and beat-driven. On Aerophobia Dutta worked with Max de Wardener, a musician in possession of similar musical DNA, and with a similar predilection for soundtrack work. It suggests a kind of minitiarised, idiosyncratic version of Autechre, as clusters of beats and piano splinters fire into each other.
At times the music on Parergon is also reminiscent of French composer Olivier Messiaen, especially in its synaesthesic evocations of colour and focusing on the upper scale of the piano. His classical credentials are boosted further by the inclusion of a version of China Gates by John Adams. Meanwhile, three short pieces dotted over the course of the album – Suprachiasmatic Alpha, Beta and Gamma – present themselves as musical cousins of a sort, and also show off his interest in application of musical theory (being created by special neuronal music technology).
He ends the album with a faithful version of Aphex Twin‘s Avril 14th (a piece that he has featured in his live sets over the years). He ensures its softly cascading, unassailable melodic beauty remains intact but it can seem a slightly incongruous ending compared to what it follows. The sound of the piano does run through the core of Parergon, but it is never one-dimensional. Dutta manages to strike a balance between proto-avant-garde contemporary classical and cinematic, electronic miniatures. The range of ideas that fizz and bubble under the surface ensure there is plenty here for the musically curious to enjoy.