Bruno Bavota – Mediterraneo (DRONARIVM, 2015)


Bavota’s press release for his latest record is bold and adamant: this new album is not about the Mediterranean as you’d expect it to be; moreover it’s a record dedicated to its warmth and light and shared love, its impressionistic qualities that have left an imprint on many people over the years who live near its shores or have gaze out over its glittering expanse. But it doesn’t take Bruno’s emboldened PDF’s to see that this is obvious the moment we begin listening; in the piano, guitar and violins captured here the sea is merely a distant memory, and although it lies at the principle core of the record, love and intimacy form the true focus here, if you can get through the somewhat formulaic compositions.

“Interlude” appropriately opens the record and is consequently followed by “Home”, both of them encapsulating feelings of distance and separation turning into reunion; the opener breaks our hiatus in slowly emerging introspective piano before tumbling into more impassioned violin movements filled with a growing energy that marks the waking up of the record, whilst “Home” creeps out in replete and cosy tinklings after our more euphoric initial moments, subdued in some late evening quiet time surrounding by the comforting familiarity of home. With the more physically intimate “Hands” introducing the guitar for the first time before blossoming into lively and multifaceted acoustic vigour, this initial trio essentially sets the entire pace and idiosyncratic musical outline for the rest of the record.

“Who Loves, Lives”, “Mediterraneo”, “Sweet Fall” and closer “Fairy Tale” all fall under the solo piano performance category, unwinding admittedly luxurious and simple movements that more or less follow the same construction: slow, careful and minimal beginnings, rising into passionate cascades of hard hammering enthusiasm, then slipping backwards to their origins before repeating. Whilst each track does have its own flavour and unique identity within the record, it does feel like they’re almost following a template and it becomes really quite noticeable as the the album goes by, almost to the point of distraction for me.

The other side revolves around guitar or piano introductions that slowly devolve into the many textured affairs ala “Hands”; “Alba” sees lightweight guitar pickings pave the way for more emotionally insistent piano before the violin strokes kick in at the end, which coincidentally is also more or less the same formula for “The Quiet Place”. That being said it’s clearly a less revisited approach than the piano reliant tracks and their more texturally complex and proactive attitude makes for refreshing and interesting listening when they do appear; “The Quiet Place” ranks amongst the best tracks of the record in its carefully balanced crescendo and thoughtfully private intimacies.

There are a few notable outliers to the somewhat formulaic approach though that are worth pointing out; “The Night” falls almost perfectly into the middle of the album and is perhaps the most refined and delicate piece offered. It’s twinkling piano chords tumble out of the darkness of its namesake and slowly gain traction and life in the wheeling lights, a pretty and sparkling little affair that basks in the quietly freeing night. Penultimate piece “Passport To The Moon” is certainly not far removed but is the most openly and consistently wistful and heartfelt piece here; doused in a definitive sense of loss and resignation it tinkles minimally along, catching some brief, shining moment of optimism right at the end of its sad span.

I love how expressive the piano as an instrument is, I always have, and in Bavota’s hand it’s a beautifully emotional tool, but there’s a sense here that on its own it’s not being taken to its maximum potential almost, that there’s a sense that Bavota doesn’t quite know where to take his creations and instead falls into the trap of idiosyncrasy and repetition. Don’t get me wrong this is a gorgeous listen and the tracks on their own are quite beautiful, some very much so, but sometimes I catch myself left with a feeling of deja vú listening to this if I find myself listening too closely.