Verve

2019

Tracklist

1. Abeyance2. Honesty3. Verve4. Last Day Of May5. Dancing Waters6. Purples7. One Step Slower8. Éxta9. Extrema10. Volant (Bonus Track)11. Chiaroscuro (Bonus Track)

Credits

Photography by May Xiong
Front cover artwork by Linn Legros
Artwork design by Jack Hardwicke

The Album

Format: Vinyl, CD, Digital
Release Date: March 1, 2019
Label: Mercury KX

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The making of Verve

Strictly speaking, Verve is not Sebastian Plano’s third album. Plano’s third album has no title, and only one copy exists. In fact, it may not even exist any longer. Whether or not it does, however, it’s unlikely that the person who owns it actually knows they have it. On April 19, 2013, outside the San Francisco recording studio where, that evening, Plano had completed recording the Novel EP – his collaboration with acclaimed cellist (and former Kronos Quartet member) Jeffrey Ziegler – his computer, and, with it, two hard drives, were stolen from his car. Also stored on the drives was Plano’s recently finished third album. Despite papering nearby streets over the coming weeks with some 500 posters offering a $5,000 reward, the drives were never returned. It was like the record had never existed.

Verve is therefore Sebastian Plano’s third album. Initially conceived as a reconstruction of its mythical predecessor, it evolved, over several years, into something else entirely: a reaction to its content, and its loss. In such circumstances, it’s perhaps not entirely surprising it sounds the way it does. On one hand, its presence can be deeply sensed, yet it feels distinctly otherworldly, and though it boasts a profound, admirable weight, its instrumental compositions are delicate, full of light and air. From ‘Abeyance’’s placid, almost subaqueous introduction, to the end of the bittersweet ‘Extrema’, via the title track’s slowly swelling conviction, the brittle beauty of ‘Dancing Waters’, and the expansive optimism of ‘Purples’, it blurs the lines between analogue and digital. Paying no mind to anything but the purity of its expression, it exists in its own dimension, its melancholy swathed in hope, a filigree of gently stroked strings, rippling piano lines and eloquent electronica.


"The record was composed, produced and performed entirely by Plano, in his studio in Berlin."

Verve, though, isn’t the album it once was. Crushed by the original’s disappearance, Plano had relocated to Berlin little more than three months after its loss, and work began with attempts to rescue his lost works. By the end of 2015, Verve had been recreated – to the best of his ability and recollection, anyway. “Still,” he concedes, “something didn’t fulfill me, something I couldn’t live with. It didn’t give me that level of excitement that you should get from a record you’ve just finished. It felt old. So I threw everything away.

It was a courageous but canny decision. Soon he was spending every night until dawn in his Berlin apartment playing, almost silently, his beloved electric Yamaha CP80 piano, which he’d shipped from San Francisco. “I attacked the fear,” he recalls, “and the things that weren’t allowing me to work.” Out of these marathon sessions, pieces began to emerge, including ‘Dancing Waters’ and ‘Honesty’. “So I took the summer of 2016 to make a whole new record,”he laughs, “in a burst of, ‘Fuck everything! Let me just do music! Let’s forget everything that’s in the past!” Improvising by night, and editing by day, Plano crafted the most ambitious record of his career: Verve’s individual tracks, with their slowly unfurling melodies and sprawling, dreamlike atmospheres, are less conventionally structured than before, and yet, with its repeated themes and production quirks – plus Plano’s conscious acknowledgement of his classical training – the album as a whole is his most intricately constructed, and possessed of a bolder narrative too. It was composed, produced and performed entirely by Plano, who confesses that, “even if I write something for an instrument, I have to play it. Music isn’t just about sound. It’s about the tone of the melodic line as well.

"Plano plucks heartstrings as effective as his cello's strings"

Uncut (8/10)

 "A Fascinating Excursion"

Clash

To make Verve, Plano had to reach an acceptance that an album isn’t always just a collection of music: it’s a document of performances. Though he could still hear the original recordings in his head, he was slowly forced to recognise, as he battled to regain their precious lustre, that he was trying to achieve the impossible. What then emerged was even better: a record that’s here and yet, somehow, not here at all. Its genesis was lengthy, and its birth laborious, but Verve delivers what its title promises: spirit and vigour in beguiling measures, delivered by a unique voice. Strictly speaking, it’s his finest work to date.

- Wyndham Wallace, Berlin, 2018

Verve by Sebastian Plano | Vinyl LP

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