Apparently Daniel Lanois has a new album — its title, Player, Piano, featuring an attention-getting comma — due out on the fairly new label Modern Recordings (a BMG company whose roster includes Nils Petter Molvaer, Robot Koch, and Meredi). “I got to visit with the ghosts of Erik Satie and Oscar Peterson and Harold Budd,” Lanois said in a pre-release statement. This short video is a live snippet of him at his heavily used instrument, carefully selected chords worked through with soulful patience.
According to the pre-release announcement: “Lanois and [co-producer Wayne] Lorenz set about transforming each of the three pianos in the studio, dampening the strings with tea towels and dulling the percussive impact of the hammers by adding small felt pads to the heads. When it came time to record, they used vintage ribbon mics and arranged them behind the instruments rather than in front in an effort to further soften the sound.”
That glimpse at his approach explains the muted quality of the piano, the way it both echoes with a pronounced softness and yet feels constrained, controlled. The softness is itself a sort of constraint, in that it presents the piano at a remove from how one normally hears the instrument — thus the sound is both warm and alien. In other words, very much Daniel Lanois territory.