Daniel W J Mackenzie’s Four Places for Piano will likely be misread as Four Pieces for Piano. There’s a blurry glimpse of one of the title instruments on the album’s cover. As for whether the piano actually played an active role in the recording of the album, that’s a far more blurry topic. Four Places for Piano is four pieces of long-form, slowly modulating drones. It opens with the highlight, “Diocleia,” which has several pulses set against each other, most noticeably a bell-like ringing that arrives every eight seconds or so. Other elements run through more quickly or more slowly, but that bell tone is the heart of it. At almost 11 minutes in length, “Diocleia” lets the ears fall prey to various cross-pollinations of meter and tone.
Each track on Mackenzie’s Four Pieces for Piano is noticeably distinct from the others, and yet any one of them, once you get three or four minutes in, can, as with much drone music, sound like the background noise of an electrical substation. The similarities are an illusion. Part of the pleasure of Four Pieces for Piano is listening not just within a track, but between them. “Duklja” has more of a sense of urgency than the others; it grows as time passes, occasionally pushing the waveforms into something rough-edged. “Zeta” has an even more pronounced bell than “Diocleia,” here like a carillon caught in a loop. And “Podgorica” distinguishes itself with a slow, crunchy beat amid its already noisy churn.