Francesc Sans (from the album L'Infinit available on Microscopi Records) (by Chris Wheatley)
In the Anglophone sphere, bagpipes are often assumed to be an instrument unique to the Scottish Highlands. In reality, bagpipes have been played for centuries all around the globe. Far from being restricted to largely ceremonial use, the melodic possibilities and wonderful strength of the bagpipes have been employed in numerous different ways, in countless and varied sonic settings. For startling proof of the instrument’s versatility, witness the works of American jazz musician Rufus Harley. Here, though, we’re concentrating on the very fine player, Francesc Sans. L'Infinit is the first solo album from this highly respected player, and what a fantastic record it is.
“Tres Tocs, Un Cant” begins this set in striking fashion, with eerie layers of drone, clattering hand percussion and bowed strings, before taking an abrupt right-hand turn. From that moment, the tune bounces and sparkles, with some mercurial playing from Sans over a jaunty, rattling beat, which comes in fresh, rolling in waves like an ocean. There’s some lovely wordless vocal harmonizing here, and the array of instruments employed, including violin and acoustic guitar, make for a wonderfully varied soundscape.
“Les Quintes” builds from a lilting piano-and-voice opening, blooming out into a full-scale piece full of expressive beauty. As with every track, and despite the amount of featured players, the arrangement on this tune never feels cluttered. Not an inch of space is wasted, nor needlessly filled. Tasteful flourishes and adornments abound. Disparate sounds circle, interweave and pull apart. This is an album full of magical moments.
“El Meu Sud” displays a deeply cinematic feel, a broad, weighty canvas across which a nimble flute weaves a mournful spell. There’s something reminiscent of the great film work of Vangelis here, in the manner that large slabs of sound are made to feel, at the same time, effortlessly accessible and human. It’s an impressive piece, and highly affecting. “Amoretes”, in contrast, skips playfully along at pace, a jaunty, joyous folksy number full of galloping drums, deft changes and more fine, supple work by Sans. Herein lies the strength of his chosen instrument and of this album – the width of tone and feel is impressive, taking you on a journey of unexpected delights. “L’Horitzo,” an almost medieval-sounding number, simmers with vibrancy. Pipes swim, dive and swoop, strings intone, underline and then take the lead. With L’Infinit, there is always more going on that at first might seem.
Vocals are used sparingly on this album, and to great effect. When the human voice appears, it blends seamlessly with the other instruments. In fact, every composition here bears an organic, earthy feel, even when the music’s metaphorical head is in the clouds. “Dolors Gegants” flows by at leisurely pace, full of pathos and drama. “L’Aloseta” takes us out in fine style, sounding almost Andean in tone, a rich, beguiling song made for hot summer nights.
L’Infinit is an album of admirable breadth and scope. In Sans’ hands, the bagpipes flash and dance like a rapier, tracing hypnotic patterns of sparkling silver. Each of the eleven tracks is memorable in its own way, each is full of surprises. It is a record bursting at the seams with ideas, put together by first-class musicians and infused with no little spirit. (by Chris Wheatley)
Listen and buy the music of Fransesc Sans from AMAZON