Stefano Battaglia - Pelagos

Label/Year: ECM, 2017

Lineup – Stefano Battaglia: piano and prepared piano.


Italian pianist Stefano Battaglia aims at the (im)migration crisis that keeps escalating all over. In order to call the world’s attention to the problem, Battaglia addresses a handful of compositions plus a bunch of spontaneous improvisations with acute sensitivity. Pelagos, his first solo album, was conceived with piano and prepared piano and recorded at the Fazioli Concert Hall in Sacile, Italy. 

The song titles vary from specific locations where the problem is more visible to more generalist terms regarding migration in its different varieties.
If “Destino” and “Migration Mantra” are persevering supplications, the minimalist “Lampedusa” and the tense “Migralia” are sorrowful enough to make you inconsolable.
Wielding attractive melodies on the title track, the pianist manages to turn the lugubrious first movements into optimistic light on a few specific passages where the classical intonations are intensified.
Other songs fully immersed in the classical genre are the moderate-moving, lightly fingered “Brenner Tocatta” and the two beautifully polished variations of the Arabic traditional song “Lamma Bada Yatathanna”, whose Eastern connotations grow dim when submitted to a solo piano treatment.

Eastern musing is certainly preponderant on “Halap”, which is complemented with an exciting groove and sinuous melody, and “Exilium”, where a relentless chord shields whether swift, whether meditative Hamito-Semitic enunciations. The latter tune gets percussive in its final part, boosted by smothered sounds and exotic melodies dispensed by the prepared piano.

Assorted chimes, vibes, and timbres generate the percussive “Processional”, as well as “Hora Mundi”, whose descendant melodic cascades bestow an idiosyncratic tone that sounds dreamlike but restless at the same time. In a different way, “Dogon” and “Heron” bring to mind the rhythms and the struggle of the African people.

The pianist operates on another register by penning “Ufratu” with stronger spiritual undertones, giving it the form of a lyrical folk dance, which feels expectant but unwavering in its moves.

Exposing his sharp sense of individuality, Battaglia delivers a poetic, well-structured, and worthwhile body of work. Some listeners may wish that Pelagos had been expanded in terms of groove and textural dimension, however, its hypnotic rhythmic churns and heartfelt melodic spirals kept my ears glued to the sounds all along.

       Grade  A-

       Grade A-

Favorite Tracks:
04 (CD1) - Lamma Bada Yatathanna ► 06 (CD1)- Halap ►04 (CD2)- Exilium