By Aaron Cohen | Published May 2019
Singer/pianist Areni Agbabian values emptiness and pulls lyricism from austerity. On Bloom, her low moans blend with silent passages; she seldom breaks from long airy spaces. Agbabian used this approach on her debut, Kissy (Bag), as well as when she worked with pianist Tigran Hamasyan. Here, her excellent pitch delivers new compositions alongside some ancient sources.
Throughout Bloom, Agbabian delves intensely into Armenian culture, including a stunning take on the sacred hymn “Anganim Arachi Ko.” Breathing deeply, her vocal emphasizes sharp timing to convey a quiet minimalist power. Agbabian also composed a new version of the country’s folk tale “The Water Bride” in which Nicolas Stocker’s percussion and her own singular piano notes seem to choreograph a ritualistic counternarrative. Still, Bloom’s most fascinating feature throughout is Agbabian’s own voice as Stocker’s percussion highlights or frames its distinctive qualities. The thunder in Stocker’s bass drum sharply contrasts with her seemingly delicate moan on the folk melody “Garun A.” And without ever directly saying so, Agbabian’s sparse intonation encourages deeper listening to her own music, as well as to the national sounds that she transforms.
Bloom: Patience; Petal One; Rain Drops; Yearning; Petal Two; Light Effect; Anganim Arachi Ko; The Water Bride; Mother; Garun A; The River; Anganim Revisited; Sear; Full Bloom; Whiteness; Colored; Seeing More. (50:30)
Personnel: Areni Agbabian, voice, piano; Nicolas Stocker, percussion.