2023 / Milvus
Review by Kathy Parsons
Cyclical is the stunning new album from Spanish pianist/composer Hugo Selles and is his second release of 2023 following Three Portraits, a collection of piano solos by Liszt, Debussy and Rachmaninov. One of the most versatile artists I've encountered in my years of reviewing, Hugo's music encompasses a broad range of musical styles and genres, but is always masterful and heartfelt. The nine tracks on Cyclical are each dedicated to people and places dear to Hugo's heart, and that comes through very clearly in the music. In addition to piano and several different keyboards, Hugo plays a variety of hand percussion instruments. He is joined on several tracks by India Hooi, who also plays an interesting mix of instruments including accordion, whistle, vocals and hand percussion; she also mastered the album. Other guest artists are Esteban Bolado (bodhran, bagpipes, nyckelharpa, whistle, dulcimer and more), Jorge Granda (acoustic guitar and electric sitar), Blas Ferrari (charango), Miguel Diez (violincello), Carlos Barragan (classical guitar), Morten Skott (hand percussion, voice), and Camille Bialas (bowed vibraphone and bell/chimes). There are currently four YouTube videos for tracks of the album that beautifully illustrate the places that inspired the music.
You might notice that I didn't mention any favorites on Cyclical. The album is so good that I really can't choose any favorites - they are all outstanding! The album begins with "Antares," a haunting yet passionate piece dedicated to Hugo's family and childhood friends. It begins with a rapid keyboard pattern that runs in the background through most of the piece. Other instruments are layered over that to create of very cinematic montage of sounds that bring vivid images as they spark the imagination - a great beginning! "Mays," a 9 1/2-minute piece dedicated to the memory of Lyle Mays (1953-2020), begins with a duet by Jorge Granda on guitar and Esteban Bolado on nyckelharpa, a traditional Swedish bowed instrument. India Hooi makes it a trio with her accordion after a bit and then Hugo has an extensive piano solo that is mournful, but not without hope. The other three artists return for the closing moments of this amazing piece. "Ikara" is dedicated to Hugo's Australian family and features Hooi on dizi (flute) and several percussion instruments with the other artists on drums, keyboards and guitars. This one also has a very cinematic feeling that suggests wide open spaces and a sense of adventure. "Jano" is dedicated to the mountains of Cantabria and is a dark and dramatic duet for piano and cello (Diez). "Borneo" is dedicated to the people fighting against deforestation and palm plantation in Malaysia. It features Hugo, Hooi, Barragan and Skott on a variety of exotic instruments that express feelings of sadness and loss. "Everglades" is dedicated to Hooi, Granda and Bolado and features the four artists on a fascinating array of instruments, expressing excitement and discovery. "El Valle Del Silencio" is dedicated to "all the animals and plants on the brink of extinction" - a short but very powerful piece that gets its point across quickly and clearly. "Lemmonkattila" is dedicated to Hooi and features her vocals along with Barragan's classical guitar and Hugo's piano and a variety of hand percussion instruments - very smooth, soothing and peaceful. "Sokotei" is dedicated to the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, an organization in Nairobi that rescues and rehabilitates baby elephants. The only piano solo on the album, it's a delicate and heartfelt closing to an outstanding album.
Cyclical is available from Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes and streaming sites including Spotify. Very highly recommended! And don't forget to check out the videos!
March 26, 2023