Admir Shkurtaj - Feksėn

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Admir Shkurtaj
Anima Mundi Edizioni (

The music of Feksėn, pianist Admir Shkurtaj's follow-up to Mesimér, emboldens the message written across that 2012 solo debut. With more self-reflection than ever, Shkurtaj transplants his Albanian roots to the soil of Salento, the peninsular region of Italy's heel he has called home since 1991. While Mesimér charted the local music with a surreally archival air, here those traditions provide him with a way of looking beyond the Strait of Otranto toward his homeland. The album's poetic title, in fact, refers to the sun's glint off Salento's windows, which speckles the distant mountains and acts as a visual conduit between the land he once knew and the one in which he currently bases his activities. It's an image evoked by the program's two Albanian tunes, which, from the brightness of "Mu aty te shtat zymbylat (Dai sette giacinti)" and restraint of "Valle nga Shqiperia e mesme (Danza dell'Albania)" alone, mimic that same conversation of glass, light, and rock.

Echoes of tradition find their way into every crevice of Shkurtaj's gestural playing, which traverses seven Salentine folk songs. His approach to these is apparent in the opening "Aria de lu trainu," pairing the undulating currents of his left hand with the dance-like structuring of his right. This joining of the fluid and the rigid, the blunted and the sharpened, characterizes much of his repertoire. The following "Stornelli (Beddha ci voi venire)" further exemplifies his ability to break down melodies to their components and refashion something fresh from them .

As in the last album, he makes use of extended techniques and sound-producing means. Where last time it was a newspaper threaded between the piano strings, here it is a pinched balloon squealing over prepared piano atmospheres. The effect of these surreal touches is that the more straightforward readings like "Scuisciumaniellu" feel strangest for their regularity. At such moments, Shkurtaj hums nostalgically and lets his fingers wander of their own accord.

He rounds out the disc with a sprinkling of his own pieces, of which "Plurigestual" best sums up his aesthetic in both title and execution. It is, along with "Krahë (Ali)," a largely improvised track, with textures that seem to balance feelings of belonging and displacement.

Emphasizing all of this is the album's intimate engineering, which allows the piano's resonance to shine through, casting its own feskėn along the mountains of our listening. - Tyran Grillo

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