BAY 117 - Irrealis (BAY 117)
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Irrealis by Matthew Bourne
Formats: Limited edition black vinyl LP (750 copies) (BAY117V) Digital (BAY 117E)
Release Date: 27 May 2022

Matthew Bourne follows 2017’s Isotach album, and recent collaborations with Keeley Forsyth and Nightports, with a collection of prepared piano pieces. Irrealis was recorded in a single session, each take played as live without any overdubs. Having taught himself the basics of prepared piano by throwing confectionary into his school’s instrument, elements of these experimentations played a key role in Bourne’s early performances. This culminated in an infamous performance piece which saw the explosive musical demolition of an upright piano with a sledgehammer. Far from the staid academic process the discipline is often approached with, Irrealis sees a restless improvisational musician explore the possibilities of his instrument with a box of nuts, bolts and Blu-Tak, and a sense of playfulness and spontaneity.

Having prepared the piano for work on a lengthy job soundtracking a film, Bourne took the opportunity to use the set-up to let loose, before returning the piano to its original state. A few minutes into these improvisations, he decided to hit the record button. With no real idea what these pieces would add up to, we’re given a rare snapshot of Bourne playing for his own enjoyment - his innate sense of melodicism shining through the percussive clatter and altered tunings.

“These tracks were made moments after recording some pieces for another project - caught impulsively and without alteration of the preparations, whilst also on the precipice of velleity,” Bourne explains. “This is the place from which much of my work tends to emerge. At the conclusion of each piece, there seemed an impetus to continue onto the next, and again to the next.”

“Irrealis refers to an event that hasn't occurred, or at least hasn't yet occurred,” Bourne continues. “I liked the idea that what I’m doing is something of an unreality - the end result is never audible to me at the time.”

Bourne employed an improvisational technique he refers to as ‘first idea’ - “It’s simply a way to describe the act of surrender by deliberate listening to whatever arises in the first instance, intentional or otherwise,” he expands. “It is often that which arises unintentionally that is of most use or interest to an improviser. It’s a kind of bearing witness to sound, and then committing to following its lead over any preconceived ideas.”

As with much of Bourne’s recent output, the tracks are named in tribute to friends, colleagues and influences, or as he describes it as ‘gifting’ the tracks to people he’s close to. In that shrunken pandemic world of 2021, this includes his mother, those musicians he collaborated with remotely and in the short periods where restrictions would allow, a hero, and a lover.

Bourne collaborated with Split on the print used for the artwork. Oli Bentley explains: “Reflecting the spontaneous way in which the music was created, the artwork was made straight into the bed of the printing press with no initial sketches or digital mock-ups and using only what was to hand and Matt’s incredible music to guide us. Just as with all the bits and pieces Matt uses in the pianos on this record — things that were never designed to be used to create the sounds they do - we created the letterpress print in the same way.”

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A1. Shri
A2. Asaf
A3. Dušan
B1. Jane
B2. Laurent
B3. Alice
B4. Armando