The Heart of Ambient Chamber Music: Sebastian Plano.

Sebastian Plano’s “The Arrhythmical Part of Hearts” Echoes CD of the Month for August

Hear Sebastian Plano’s The Arrhythmical Part of Hearts Monday, August 6, on Echoes.

Sebastian Plano’s The Arrhythmical Part of Hearts

There are classical artists who still live in a musical world that existed 80 or 200 hundred years ago.  Then there are classical musicians who embrace the modern world we live in today. That’s what Sebastian Plano does.  Primarily a cellist and pianist, he’s the child of a musical family of string players in Argentina.  But he’s also the child of modern electronic music in all its forms.  He got his first Vangelis album when he was eight years old.  Now living in San Francisco, he brings those elements together on The Arrhythmical Part of Hearts.

“In Between Worlds/Emotions (Part III)”

With his opening track, “Homage To A Soul,” Sebastian Plano wears his influences on his sleeve, dedicating the piece to Estonian composer, Arvo Pärt.  Fortunately, he lives up to that aspiration, starting with Pärt’s Tintinnabuli-style of slow-motion counterpoint and melody adding an excruciatingly beautiful cello solo that sounds like the heartache of the world.

While other ambient chamber music composers submerge their melodies in deep baths of texture, Plano doesn’t bury the lead, but exults in his lyric inventions.   In that regard, he’s closer to Ludovico Einaudi than Ólafur Arnalds.  Plano’s music is a subtle mix of acoustic and electronic.  He flows between a gamelan orchestra on speed, soaring string ensembles and electronic effects that merge seamlessly with his melodic motifs.


Plano has listened to a lot of minimalism and a lot of modern electronic music and those influences often come together in dazzling ways.  “Running with Caffeine” is an adrenaline-charged work with a funky piano opening that rips into a distorted electronica groove. Over chiming vibes and bells, Plano’s cello arcs against an increasingly turbulent, but always melodic background of hocketing synthesizers and percussion.

Image of Sentimentals

Compositions such as “Living” and “Emotions (Part III)” are multi-part works that move like interlocked spirals.  Just when you think they couldn’t get any more beautiful, they do, sometimes employing voices intoning a space hymn, often using  Plano’s cello, and occasionally adding a bandoneón, an instrument that brings it all back home to Argentina.

Plano veers off into experimentation on the last two tracks, growing angular and clashing, albeit in a gentle way.  “Postlude” is hampered by his only clichéd use of reverse effects. But it’s this adventurous spirit that enlivens his other compositions.

The Arrhythmical Part of Hearts was actually released in early 2011, but to scant attention.  And that’s wrong.   Plano is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to generate money for his next CD.  I can’t think of a better calling card than The Arrhythmical Part of Hearts. Clocking in at only 32 minutes, the album is short, but that’s a good thing.  It gives you time to spin it all over again, and again.

~© 2012 John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

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