Hugo Selles 2022
If everyone was listening, a lone Spaniard could save the show with wordless reimagining of a famous catalogue.
For all its commercial allure, the oeuvre of SUPERTRAMP has always been possessed with nigh on indiscernible intricacy, stemming in most cases from the English ensemble’s employment of two keyboards – simultaneously – something that their fellow musician, Spanish pianist Hugo Selles could easily establish and often put to use with his own collective, PSYCHIC EQUALIZER. Yet though the communal scrutiny of prog idiom opened multiple possibilities for this ivories purveyor, the idea of splicing various melodic strands for a single instrument’s delivery and developing them further stayed in his mind for a long time too. The result of such understanding is a series of dramatically impressive and tranquil tapestries which see the Cantabrian composer rearrange the classic period Roger Hodgson and Rick Davies pieces and go off on a tangent for adventure’s sake, all the while avoiding the temptation of treading the water of familiar motifs.
So if the uninitiated will surely recognize the pregnant, percussive tune of “Dreamer” and a snippet of “Crime Of The Century” – condensed into an under-two-minutes minuet – it’s less-listened-to cuts that will make the cognoscenti find a few quietest moments and get carried away by Selles’ fantasies. Hugo may evoke Rachmaninoff’s romantic melancholy in “Don’t Leave Me Now” and Mehldau contemporary austerity in the fantastically epic improv of “Know Who You Are” but, despite different framework references, he doesn’t apply any stylistic shift towards pastiche, opting instead for an utterly personal reading of pensive opener “Babaji” – whose Satie-esque, slightly slanted dynamic plateau feels so spiritual in the absence of lyrics – and “Fool’s Overture”: the record’s strident, experimental foray beyond the pale. There’s no default elegy setting on this platter, still, where prepared piano plays a certain entertaining role on “Ain’t Nobody But Me” in which the performer’s nimble fingers seem to stumble around the core chord with a fusion-like effect before solemn splashes straighten the stroll only to stray from the course once again and waltz wildly to one’s stentorian rapture, as if to contrast the chamber serenity of “A Soapbox Opera” until the ballad’s nervous amplitude grows in scope and grips the heart.
So when a brief flutter through “Hide In Your Shell” offers emotional respite, the feeling of gratitude should descend upon Selles’ sonic spectators – the sentiment that the album’s finale, the stately and vibrant “Aubade / And I Am Not Like Other Birds Of Prey” from the British band’s debut, must fasten to eternity. This is what Hugo was aiming at, and this is what “Pianotramp” has captured so perfectly.