Album Review: Michael Vignola, "Infinity"
Michael Vignola is a composer and “sound crafter” based in New York City. He’s won multiple awards for his work and creates music with a unique vision, broad range and great detail.
On Infinity, Vignola creates music that is rich and warm, but always with a sense of colder, more distant elements hidden just beyond. Underlying the beauty and delicacy is something deeper and subtly unsettling. I think, out of all of his albums that I have reviewed, this is one where melody plays the biggest role. Infinity still has his signature sparseness but there are moments of heart-seizing melodic beauty.
There’s an interesting combination of strings and piano along with electronic and synth elements on this album. The whole mix produces an extremely full, thick sound when it all comes in at once, but Vignola knows when to back off and keep things simple. The contrasts between sparse and spacious sounds and a tapestry of more intricate sonic threads help to define the contours of Infinity.
When Infinity reaches for the heights, it touches them in an elegant way. There’s a true refinement in this album, a refinement that shows through in all of the tracks. I think that this is the mark of someone who continues to hone their craft and how they approach it. Not that Vignola’s earlier albums lacked this quality, but I think it has become even more apparent here.
There’s a sense of cohesion in the way the tracks hang together on the album. One flows into another seamlessly and they weave together to form one coherent expression. The sense of expansive space surrounding intimate musical moments is apparent throughout the entire album.
Having said that, there are tracks with which I felt a particular affinity. There are three that I’d especially like to highlight.
The first track that really took hold of me was Give and Take. It starts with a gorgeous, full, yearning melody played on violin. The gentle piano chords behind it give it strenght and then a driving violin comes in before leaving again for a series of piano arpeggios. The open, deep sound underneath is filled by the ticking of a clock and a unsettling sonic murmur in the background grows and abruptly fades as the track ends.
Knowing has an extremely soft and gentle start with just piano and strings, playing minimal notes that begin to grow and take form. The string section comes in and adds structure to the piece. The deep string drone is a counterpoint to the softness of the piano. Percussion starts coming in and the string drone increases in frequency as the minimalist piano continues, note by note slowly growing. The percussion is a gentle throb adding a slight sense of movement to the music. There’s a insinstent synth in the background, a synth that gives a much more unsettling feeling. A cymbal flourish and the strings and piano grow in insistence as the percussion also gains strength. All of the elements begin to move together as the song builds in intensity.
Memories of You again starts with a soothing piano and only a little bit of background ambience. The chords are warm, aching and full of what the Portuguese might call saudade, a sort of nostalgia full of emotion and depth. The minimalism here suits the gentleness of the sound perfectly. It is the lightest, warmest touch on the ear. Each note seems full of something powerfully melancholy. All at once, the piano swells and flows, creating rippling patterns like light through lace. The sadness is shot through with some hope, provided by the piano, Light notes flicker and flutter before fading to silence.
Ultimately the abiding impression that Infinity left with me was one of tiny, delicate gem-like moments of beauty drifting through an infinite sea of space and time. The expansive, even stark synthscapes and pads contrast with the melodically rich and warm strings along with the minimal and delicate piano work to produce an emotional state combining melancholy with uplift and warmth with icier, more empty mental landscapes. For me, they are landscapes worth exploring.