Various Artists – Realismo Mágico

Valencia’s Piano and Coffee Records is part of an international collective “working together for the love of art.” The group’s goal, according to its website is to “push boundaries and creative conversation.” To date, the imprint’s contribution to that conversation has featured a sophisticated mix of ambient, electronic and new classical works.

Peru’s Sergio Diaz De Rojas opened up shop in 2017, in partnership with a pair of visual artists: Jordan Amy Lee and Celia Fernández González. In preparation for Piano and Coffee Records’ fifth anniversary, their first compilation release is due out Aug.6.

Realismo Mágico is a 50-minute collection of a dozen previously unreleased tracks by 14 extraordinary artists. De Rojas describes the album as a study of “magical realism,” as he describes it a combination of realistic storytelling and fantasy.

Certainly you can hear that theme most directly in Ella Zwietnig’s mesmerizing “You Went Through Me, Truly.” The choppy editing of her vocals is underpinned by bouncing electronics and synth lines that will wash over you like 1981. Very tasteful.

It’s not difficult to imagine Sjors Mans’ slow-burning “Zosima” as the title music accompanying an Icelandic Netflix mindbender. Jakob Lindhagen and Vargkvint have delivered a similarly moody collaborative effort called “Bäckahäst.”

For most of the album though, the theme is loosely applied. The mood is mostly contemplative, the instrumentation understated. This consistency across these 12 tracks is noteworthy, given the inclusion of the aforementioned genres.

The album’s standout electronic pieces include Martyna Basta’s “Speaking of Explosive.” It is precisely that – heavily plucked strings and gritty found sounds. She may well be the artist you go exploring immediately after downloading the album. Alexandra Hamilton-Ayres and Josh Semans have handed in a lower key effort called “Fall Fly Run” that feels like a pre-COVID day at the beach.

The pieces featuring piano most prominently – arguably what the label is best known for given its support of Piano Day each year – are, each of them, little gems. Tim Linghaus’ “Saturn Days” is accompanied by a heart-busting indie rock vocal. Simeon Walker’s spacious “Saturnine” and Lucy Claire’s “Kelp” are equally absorbing.

The album closes with a picture perfect combination of piano and strings (and coffee, we assume). “Lotos” by Brueder Selke is all quiet elegance and optimism. Beautifully written and recorded as though it’s been produced entirely for you.

We want more.

Kevin Press

The Moderns, vols. 1-3 – available exclusively from Amazon

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