Review: Anna Rose Carter + Pleq – My Piano Is Broken

I’m often hesitant when it comes to approaching albums that fuse abstract atmospherics with the tonally rigid melodies of conventional instrumentation. There’s a danger of spoiling the subtle mystique, or hauling even the most convincing and immersive soundscapes back to the status of “music”; any authentic sense of ambient escapism is ruined, with any melodic motifs staring directly and unblinkingly through the fourth wall.

My Piano Is Broken avoids this dilemma by placing piano firmly in the spotlight, and never expects it to aid in the direct creation of atmosphere. Rather, Rose Carter plays somewhat obliviously to the soft, crackling cocoons that form around her, and I get the impression that her contributions came first in the music’s construction process. These are essentially piano compositions that have been enhanced by their transference into Pleq’s hand-crafted locations: rain-sodden fields, forests at midnight. For the first two pieces, it really works – Rose Carter plods gently, muffled beneath the steady hiss of raindrops on rock surfaces, loud enough for the melody to be comfortably audible, but soft enough for her to seem caught helplessly within her surroundings.

But the piano melodies start to become increasingly obvious as the record progresses, while Pleq’s atmospherics withdraw from enveloping locations into mere background interference. He reasserts his presence by unnecessarily “glitching” the piano recordings themselves, as though adopting a far too literal approach to the album title, while the pieces swell with the sappy, minor-key progressions of melancholic cliché. It’s a shame that My Piano Is Broken has to close in this manner, as both collaborative parties – individually and as an artistic whole – prove themselves well aware of the potential and pitfalls of ambient/piano combinations during the first half of the record, which glimmers beautifully with the musical understanding between them.