Album Title: Strategie de la Rupture
Performers: Wim Mertens, piano and voice
Label and #: Les Disques du Crépuscule TWI 956-2
|Read no further. I want you to see these videos first: La Luna Incantata. I have no idea what these modern ballets are about but I find them mesmerizing. Music is composed and performed by Belgian composer Wim Mertens (b. 1953). He's like Philip Glass, minimalist and experimental yet melodious - except most of the time he seems to prefer working alone, singing or whistling along on the piano or synthesizer. (I don't think I've heard Glass sing; whistle maybe.) To me, Wim Mertens has always been a mystery. Very little has been written about him or his music nor has he written much about himself or his work. We only know that he studied social and political science, musicology, music theory and piano at various|
universities. While he worked for Belgian Radio Television, he produced concerts by Philip Glass, Steve Reich and Terry Riley, hence the gravitation toward minimalism in his output, which amounts to more than 50 albums today. And, he wrote a book on American Minimal Music. His website has been under construction for years. But at least he has updated it with a more recent photograph.
The first time I crossed paths with Wim Mertens was via a track named "Iris" on a JMlab demo CD simply titled Test and Demonstration Record No.1 and released by the French label Disque Pierre Verany [PV 795SP1]. I'd never heard anything like it before. Mertens seemingly played on some kind of electronic piano and sang along in his falsetto voice without lyrics. The staccato introduction was instantly arresting. Tension pulled as the music built up. Suddenly it paused. A soothing melody then caressed the rippling rhythm. When the vocal entered, I had some heavenly images in my head. Darn, the demo track faded out after 4 minutes.
I'd searched for the Wim Mertens CD -- supposedly a Disque Delabel/Virgin release according to the track information on the demo disc -- but in vain. With a bit of luck, I finally found it though on Les Disque du Crépuscule TWI 956-2. Nine tracks, all highly inventive stuff, with enigmatic titles like Darpa, Wia, Jaat, Houfnice, Hufhuf, Humvee, Kanaries and Awol. Mood paintings range from humorous to melancholy, pensive to impressionist. Some are choreographic, some are like romantic movie interludes. No programme notes, no nothing. Apart from the title list, only these words: "Music composed, performed and produced by Wim Mertens. Music recorded and engineered by Stefan Kraemer, 1991. Music published by Usura, 1991." But every track is thought-provoking. The same mystery unresolved, one follows another. There is always a hidden message somewhere waiting to be unveiled. Perhaps that's the way Mertens' music is intended.
With this CD, I learned something at least. It turns out that "Iris" is 9'49" long and sports a real acoustic piano, not an electronic one. It is not the usual concert piano we're accustomed to though. The higher octave tones are so crystal clear and tinkling like little bells that it misled me to think the piano electronic. It does suit Mertens' mystically unique style.
I bought this CD a long time ago and forgot about Mertens for a while. My daughter just re-introduced him to me with the above ballets and his more recent (?) compositions shared on the web by one of his fans. A rare treat of piano music of the third kind, Mertens is coming back in a big way. Or so I'm told. And now his albums are more readily available too.
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