A 36-minute live set recorded last May at the OFFF Festival in Lisbon, May is a single-track, limited-edition disc that sees 12k founder Taylor Deupree reworking the effect-laden piano work of Kenneth Kirschner in real time. Last year, the pair joined together for a series of live shows, in which Kirschner played a grand piano while Deupree sat beside him, manipulating the vibrations of the strings inside via his laptop.
Though the process sounds like it should lead to some appealing results, especially given the pedigree and experience of the players involved, at this stage the collaboration still feels a bit too tentative to truly gel into a unique force. May unfolds slowly and meditatively, with Kirschner wandering across the keyboard, never committing to a precise direction and instead using the keys to noodle an atmospheric through-line, which Deupree enhances with overdubs and trills that wash out the fringes.
May belongs in the same category as Ryuichi Sakamoto's collaborations with Carsten Nicolai and Christian Fennesz, Brian Eno's Thursday Afternoon or recent albums by Type artists Sylvain Chauveau and Goldmund, and fans of those recordings will not be disappointed. It's hard not to enjoy a piano recording that ebbs and flows at a dream's pace. Yet, the prospect remains that—had May been a studio effort, in which Deupree and Kirschner spent more time cultivating a specific mood or focus—the work might have registered a stronger impression on repeat listens.
As it stands, May's major problem is that it is what it is: A live performance. In this context, the duo play it safe in much the same way Sakamoto and Fennesz do on the 19-minute live recording Sala Santa Cecilia. For Sakamoto and Fennesz, Cendre—the studio evolution that came out a year later—burned a lot brighter. And though May makes for a pleasant listening experience, the stamp of either Deupree or Kirschner—both known for way more individualistic and memorable work than this—isn't fully imprinted yet. But it could be, given the opportunity.