The problem with talking about music as delicately beautiful as Peter Broderick & Machinefabriek's Blank Grey Canvas Sky is that you're almost afraid that you'll break it by doing so. The duo's first collaboration deserves hushed tones, whispers and perhaps even a bit of reverent silence. Only rarely do they build their compositions into swirling masses of sound. And, when they do, it's almost unbearably emotional, again resisting the tyranny of language.
Machinefabriek is used to collaborations, working with the fringe folkies and ambient experimenters such as Aaron Martin and Jasper TX among many others. And his droning backdrops often stay deep behind Broderick's more easily discernible piano and strings. But both take different roles when it suits: Machinefabriek takes center stage on mid-album highlight "Kites," building an assured, flowing organ drone that strings dive underneath.
A plaintive piano, however, is perhaps the most important melodic device employed throughout. Broderick presumably is behind the ivory for many of the tracks, with guests arriving for "Planes" and "Homecoming," but it hardly matters who is playing: The effect is the same in each instance. Each time someone hits the key hard enough to make a sound, it's as though a) they've thought about it for at least a few minutes beforehand and b) they may never do it again...until they do.
The spell is broken only twice, really. "Rain" features a lilting guitar and Broderick singing alongside Susana Lundgren, while "Blank Grey" reaches a frightening climax of torn-up radio snippets and a fervent and minimal piano before fading off into considered silence once again. Despite the initial shock of intelligible vocals and the almost frighteningly urgent climax of the two tracks, they're both consistent with the overall tenor of the album, and don't surprise as much as they inspire.
Broderick, who may be more familiar to listeners due to his work on Type, Bella Union or even as a member of Efterklang's touring band, says that Blank Grey "is the collection of music I feel most proud of so far." He should be. His overtly simple work under his own name is often sweet and naïve, but often feels undercooked as well. With Machinefabriek, however, he's found a collaborator able to add unexpected ballast to his sometimes weightless work.
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Tracklist: Peter Broderick & Machinefabriek - Blank Grey Canvas Sky 01. Departure
05. Blank Grey