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Foreign Landscapes (Fatcat)

This is an album about travel. The concept is expressed firstly in the instrumentation: a 12-piece string and wind ensemble comprised of members of San Francisco-based Magik*Magik Orchestra. This gets at the varied experiences and emotions one has away from home. But Bertelmann struggles with these multiple parts, unable to give them each a clear voice, emphasizing repetition over variation and allowing a major-chord-driven mood of elation sound frenetic, stressful. Bertelmann’s prepared piano, which gives the last album (2008’s Ferndorf, about his German hometown that pivoted on his prepared piano) its clarity, plays setup and secondary roles here. Predictably, the solo piano pieces, “Early in the Park” and “Konseiji,” are used to slow things down–to offer respite and contemplation. Perhaps he needs to get home for a rest.
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