Review: Eli Keszler – Cold Pin

Cold Pin is essentially an improvised performance dictated by the fierce, rattling emissions of several piano strings arranged across a looming curved wall; a motor is attached to each, which taps against the string in sporadically sequenced rapid-fire bursts. Those few initial growls of the motor attacking the piano string really penetrate. A guttural buzz aggravates the vibrations into greater intensity throughout the course of each attack on the string, forming metallic slurps of noise that surround the players that reside within Keszler’s installation. Sometimes the strings bellow in low, harmonic-ridden tones; other times they rasp like a rod scraped across a metal coil. Keszler leads the instrumental attack – which also features guitar, bassoon, clarinet and cello amongst others – with an appropriately frantic drum performance, clattering in jittery bursts over what sounds like a box of empty tin cans. The rest of the instrumentation lurks as abstract tones, coming off as ominous without ever taking Cold Pin too far into the “musical”.

The B-side is just as fantastic. The strings are replaced with metal squares, turning the sustained tonal roars into pitter-patter downpours within which the listener is haplessly contained. Keszler continues to replicate the edgy clatter of his installation in his playing, bringing in gentle ride cymbal punctuations that do more than enough to keep the off-kilter vibe alive. It’s only really as Cold Pin approaches silence – as those guttural motor bursts become more intermittent, like the last few thunder rumbles during a storm’s subsidence – that the magnitude of the tension and unease Keszler provokes becomes clear. Personally I feel my muscles ease back into a relaxed state once the album comes to a close, and realise the extent to which my body had tried to cower away from the hostile attack from all sides.