The Italian record label Blue Spiral Records seems to be focusing on promoting the works of lesser known and emerging composers, within the field of Minimalistic music. One of their most fascinating release this year is from the Dutch composer and pianist Jeroen Elfferich. His fifth album and first release with the label, The Essence, is a multi-story project that focuses on continuous polyphonic music. Elfferich has studied percussion at the Rotterdam Conservatorium and his focus on rhythm-centered musical material reflects in every aspect of the album.
The Essence has a recurring theme that is split in parts; respectively Four, Ten, One, Nine and Five. Each part is minimalistically built on repeated cells that alternate in harmonic content and static hypnotic material. The Essence Ten plays on a musical discussion between musical voices, while The Essence One and The Essence Five are constructed around a simple motif repeated over time. The Essence Nine is a delightful contrasting piece, elegant and musically refrained. Brown is based on a four-note constant pulse that supports a somehow dark melody setting the tone for the album, while Far Away the End finds a subtle balance between lyricism and melodic cliches. The homorhythmic Zebra Finch features repeating cells that overlap each other, while Blue is a calming simplistic ballad that contrasts with the following tense piece, One Moment. New Dream plays around pianistic patterns, while Sky plays around the dualism of contrapuntal voices. Piano Peace is another set of of pieces—containing Ten, Six and Four—that contrast with the other pieces of the album with a wider relationship between space and silence, flirting with melancholy without never quite reaching it.
Elfferich is nothing short of being a prolific composer. The Essence adds to his extensive list of compositions for solo piano—over a hundred in the last few years! In its whole, the album catches the listener in a spiral of rhythmical cells that seamlessly flow from one to the other. It is an album that avoids the clichés of Minimalistic music—such as polyrhythms or particular harmonic progressions—and focuses on developing interesting rhythmic material over static harmony. However, Elfferich music is not only about rhythm, and there are absorbing simplistic melodies and harmonies. The Essence is a great introduction to the Dutch composer’s music and philosophy.