By Ammar Kalia | Published August 2019
For Polish pianist, composer and producer Joanna Duda, the world is full of noise. Even in silence, there is music to be made and texture to manipulate. On her debut solo album, Keen, the listener steps into this cavernous, sonic world—one of reverb-laden piano keys that sound like footsteps, clanging electronics that simulate automated alerts that bombard us and rolling snatches of strings overlapping like conversations in a crowded room. You emerge from this brief 30-minute record disorientated by the chaos and unsure of its meaning.
Keen is by nature fragmentary. With the longest track running at almost six minutes and the shortest at 49 seconds, the record melds into one continuous stream of sparse motifs and enigmatic instrumentation, abruptly cutting off before allowing the listener to get too attached. While highlights include the cascading flamenco-esque “Agnus,” the opening harpsichord on “Marc” and the thumping techno rhythm of the title track, ultimately nothing coheres.
Duda certainly has a deft ear for layering sounds to create a cinematic sense of space, crafting an anxiety-inducing arpeggiated synth for closing track “When” and an eerie nocturnal quality on “Fugue.” Yet, each of these compositions is merely evocative, lacking the clarity to move beyond just interesting the listener through novelty and refusing to conjure a real sense of this imagined space. Stepping into Duda’s mind on Keen is a trip, indeed, but one that could benefit from a greater calm and perspective among the chaos—time for silence to balance out the noise.
Keen: Marc; Agnus; Fugue; Menuet; Stnk; Kibo; Choinka; Keen; When. (30:18)
Personnel: Joanna Duda, piano, synthesizer, harpsichord, programming.