Australian Ross Bolleter has devoted himself to ruined pianos: instruments found exposed—in different degrees—to the elements, having in that exposure developed a quirky originality, radically at odds with the piano’s usual ideal of uniformity. Cracked soundboards vibrate with strings that have wandered wildly out of tune, a string resonates, sounding through different pitches, seemingly at will.
The very unpredictability of these instruments resists composition and Bolleter has devoted himself to improvising on them. Most of this CD is devoted to nighttime improvisations in the Bolleter kitchen, where he has set up four of these pianos in such a way that he can play them simultaneously. Inspired by Goya’s black paintings and Australian landscape photography, Bolleter creates coherent art out of his instruments’ idiosyncrasies, calling up sounds akin to gongs, assorted percussion, string drums, and de-tuned zithers. In Nocturnal sounds seem to reveal themselves slowly, only to begin wandering after they come into hearing. The sole piece created outside his kitchen, Kiss Kiss, was recorded at the Wambyn Ruined Piano Sanctuary on three pianos located in a dry dam. Bolleter is a fascinating musician who has found a sound source and an ecology largely his own.