From his musical history thus far, it seems that Francesco Tristano is preoccupied with grey area. As with his previous solo albums, 2007’s Not For Piano and Auricle Bio On the following year, Idiosynkrasia sees the Luxembourg pianist blend the pristine white of classical with the club blackness of electronic music.
The synopsis reads like this: young classically trained pianist moves to New York in the early ’00s to further his study at the esteemed Juilliard School, begins going out (naturally), becomes enamored with the sounds of electronic music pulsing through the city’s clubs. Since then Tristano has been using his instrument as a vehicle to explore new means, probing the space between the musical world in which he was raised, and the one he subsequently uncovered.
For this 12-track release Tristano echoes his past inclinations towards Detroit techno (he turned Derrick May’s classic “Strings Of Life” into a grandiose piece for solo piano in 2006), getting as close to the source as he could. Carl Craig, a previous collaborator, was consulted and the album was subsequently recorded in Motor City at Craig’s Planet E studios. Tristano himself has previously mentioned how the location influenced his sound, and despite the inherent smooth texture of the piano, Idiosynkrasia is imbued with the grit of Detroit.
Over the course of three solo albums, Tristano has figured out how to extract his classically-taught technical skills and know-how out of a traditionally regimented framework, applying them to a different school of thought altogether. Idiosynkrasia retains the sharp darkness of where techno essentially resides—inside a hefty club soundsystem—and Tristano uses his piano to fill the areas between electronic pulses with light and shade. The essence of the album isn’t really beautiful; its preoccupation with shades of grey overrides any sense of that. Instead, the LP sprawls as Tristano pushes past sound boundaries that he breaks down and replots. The young composer has always been an explorer, and Idiosynkrasia is another piece of territory that maps out his path.