Svirsky showcases an affinity for fluidity.
Leo Svirsky has proven himself a leading figure of a young generation of experimentalists, interested as much in the academic and philosophical developments of musical practice, appreciation and construction. Through this lens, the Hague-based, American accordionist, pianist and composer has been able to create and examine music on multiple instruments in varying genres and forms.
Just in his previous solo work alone, Svirsky has showcased an affinity for fluidity. The interweaving sharp piano studies and emotionally forthright mini-ballads of Songs in the Key of Survival and the vast, overwhelming accordion drones of Heights in Depths showcase his virtuosic abilities both as a musician and as a composer. On River Without Banks, Svirsky turns the focus of his studies towards classical piano, its history and ability, as he also attempts to locate and showcase the effects of music and its ephemeral qualities.
Beginning with “Fields of Reeds,” the strokes of piano swirl, always finding their time, emerging just as the previous notes dissolve into the ether. The song sets up the world of the album, immediately enveloping listeners in the ambiance of River Without Banks. The title track continues down the opening composition’s path until we are greeted by a few new aural experiences, those of a cello, a bass and a Tibetan singing bowl, further building the musical universe by giving it additional tangible qualities. “Rain, Rivers, Forest, Corn, Wind, Sand” advances the music’s expansion, as Svirsky welcomes soft trumpets into the revolving atmosphere and heightens the influence of the washed gong to cultivate some added air.
“Trembling Instants” is a piece of two distinct parts. When the organic sounds of wooden keys fade away four minutes into the song, the futuristic, alien tones of the electric Wurlitzer fill the silence, and peak into the feelings of anxiety, unassuredness and impermanence that accompany all of the brightest moments of life. The final two pieces linger in time and simplicity even more than the songs that came before them, as the only two songs on the album that are solely piano pieces. The immense “Strange Lands and People,” the longest piece on River Without Banks, gives the most space for some notes to drift into nothingness before being replaced but also allows the most time for listeners to seemingly wander in a lighter atmosphere than on much of the album. “Fanfare (after Jeromos Kamphuis)” brings our 42-minute escape into the world of River Without Banks to a bright close—with it comes a notion of acceptance that while our note is slowly disappearing, another is ready to be struck.
You can never cross the same river twice and everything is always in motion. On River Without Banks, Leo Svrisky is an artist fascinated by how things change and time flows, understanding the constant effect history has on the ever-fluctuating present and future, in music or otherwise. It is a transcendental exploration of the natural world using piano as its primary instrument of investigation. Svirsky emphasizes the cyclical nature of the rise and fall, never losing sight on the subtle shifts that occur within the process—it’s a hypnotic effect, one that engulfs listeners in a seemingly boundless space that constantly dissipates and rejuvenates around our being on both cosmic and microscopic scales.