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Pitchfork DECEMBER 18, 2017 - by Robert Ham
TOM ROGERSON WITH BRIAN ENO: FINDING SHORE
A collaboration between an improvising pianist and the ambient icon yields an unusual fusion of acoustic and electronic ideas - a meeting of minds that is full of rewarding surprises.
Asked about the use of chance in his music, Brian Eno once perfectly summed up his nearly five decades of work as a performer and producer: "I"m going to set up something that can surprise me." That simple idea can be applied to much of Eno"s art. The renowned Oblique Strategies cards, which Eno created with Peter Schmidt, feature ambiguous phrases and ideas meant to shake artists out of a creative rut. And he's spent decades seeking out technology to produce "generative music," a stream of ambient sound that "[is] there as long as you wanted it to be" and never plays the same thing twice.
Those attempts to astonish himself are one of the reasons why he gets second billing on Finding Shore. The principal composer and performer is the British pianist Tom Rogerson; the sound of his playing is further manipulated by Eno by way of an instrument called a Moog Piano Bar. Created by synth pioneers Don Buchla and Robert Moog in the early 2000s, it sits right above a piano"s keyboard, shining an infrared light on each of the eighty-eight keys. When one is played, the beam gets interrupted and triggers a MIDI signal, which can in turn trigger all kinds of noises. In this case, as Rogerson improvised on the piano, Eno was messing about with the signals he was receiving. Finding Shore, the result of that collaboration, is a record that beautifully smears together modern classical, ambient, and jazz.
On some tracks, the producer doesn"t do much at all. The opulent On-Ness is given only a light dusting of reverb, so as not to distract from the song's Satie-like delicacy and emotion. And on album closer Rest, there are nearly two minutes of unadulterated piano before its melody and rhythm lines are echoed by synthesized chiming. When Rogerson hits his final chord, Eno completely takes over, dissolving the sound into a glossy decay, as though a Rothko painting were slowly fading to black. It's the mirror image of the opening track, Idea Of Order At Kyson Point, which begins with a slowly repeating batch of notes processed to sound like a slightly out-of-tune vibraphone. Eventually, the curtain is pulled aside to reveal the piano behind the noises, with Eno shifting tones just so.