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Eli Keszler: Stadium (Shelter Press)

It’s that time of the year again, when I finally have more time on my
hands to both listen to music as well as some time to read about and
listen to some of the myriad fine releases that so many other blogs
and outlets cover in an attempt to recap the sprawling year in music.
Eli Keszler is new to me, and better late than never. Stadium is a
curious album to my ears in that it’s simultaneously meditative and
incredibly busy. Most of its tracks combine sublime, sparse synth
flourishes over an often hectic scattershot of percussive rims and
light hand drumming. Its rhythm section is imbued with the spirit of
improvisational jazz while in contrast its sparse melodic elements
often feel breezy and languid. “Doesn’t Change the System at All”
sets the tone well as an opener with its arrangement of reverberated
vibraphone, upright bass, and furious tiny drumming. The combination
of elements reminds me of some of the digital jazz of Uwe Schmidt and
Bernd Friedmann’s Flanger project, though with even less reverence
for tradition. That’s due in part to Keszler’s willingness to
change up the cadence and flow of his rhythm section in ways that
keep Stadium moving and feeling unpredictable, even with its
relatively narrow sonic range.

Stadium by Eli Keszler

“We Live in Pathetic Temporal
Urgency,” for instance, still relies on the bendy low-end of
upright bass while its hazy synths and piano provide a handsome
anchor to its up-down-and-sideways percussion section, while “Flying
Floor for U.S. Airways” feels more sublime in its tempered,
filtered tapping and dreamy pads. “Simple Act of Inverting the
Episode” ups the ante with its frenzied drumming recalling the
harried edge of vintage drum and bass while still going all in with
its improvisational slant as detuned horns loop in tandem. It’s a
lively and vibrant album, considering its relative unwillingness to
indulge traditional melody and key. Only in closing track “Bell
Underpinnings” does Keszler focus on more obvious melodic musicality, its mallets
maintaining the focal point while its more notably understated
percussion helps propel it to its conclusion. Keszler’s ability to
infuse his arrangements with an improvisational spirit and an unusual
clarity of sound distinguish much of Stadium compelling, always changing
listening. Highly recommended.

Buy it: Shelter Press