Poignant piano pieces by the man from Can.
The octogenarian Can founder member still defies convention. His first solo release since 2015’s retrospective consists of five piano improvisations played once, no edits or corrections. They’re rich with emotional evocations, as he coaxes elegy and agony from the ebony and ivory. For all the minimalism, the listener projects that the recent deaths of Holger Czukay and Jaki Liebezeit flicker through this like benevolent ghosts. Schmidt is now the last Can standing. He honours both the band’s legacy and his own with a wilfully sparse set of music which somehow embraces nostalgia, futurism and timelessness. The pieces are numbered I to V, and while the first is a haunted series of notes which set the tone, the second – where there’s a gap of over 25 seconds after the first note – brings in rustling ambient sounds and tinny rhythms recorded around his French studio. (It’s something of a jolt when those rhythms come in.) III and IV also feel percussive; V reverts to spiky melancholy. Schmidt has cited Schubert and John Cage as influences, and of the two pianos used, one was prepared with the stylings he was taught by Cage. A hypnotic duel between silence and humanity.