I quite often get sent things to read and critique - novels, books, websites, magazines... but never before have I been asked to review an album before release. I suspect this is largely because I know very little about music... (Maybe one day I'll get drunk enough to prove this by publishing the contents of my Ipod but I'm perhaps a little sceptical there is quite enough red wine in the Midlands to get me quite that inebriated... I've got Jason Donovan on there for Goddess sake.)
However when one of my oldest and dearest friends asked me to take a listen to his due to be released album I was happy to do so. I'll be honest and admit that the reason I agreed was because I knew whatever Mr Pisanu wanted me to listen to was undoubtedly bound to be damn good. I'd ask that those of you with lesser ability don't start whizzing your offerings to this not so musically educated witch in the mail. I'm making an exception for this man and I'm making it simply because I genuinely believe he will become one of the most influential musical artists of our generation.
Andrew Pisanu is an independent singer songwriter who can sum up the passions of his life in one single word - music. He teaches it, writes it, sings it, plays a range of instruments to professional standard and boasts a credible track record of lead singer band performances. I firmly believe that for an artist to reach the true potential of his creativity he needs to feel the all consuming obsession for the metier in which he chooses to express himself. Andrew epitomises this idea, he does not simply listen to music, he is music. This has never been so obvious to me as when I heard his latest album - Collecting Diseases.
I've been telling the man for years that his talent is best showcased when his voice is the main feature of the music so I was delighted to see that this new album focuses primarily on the simplicity of one man with a beautiful voice playing the hell out of his piano. And he does have a beautiful voice - you can hear the husky sensuality of his Italian ancestry in every low tortured whisper. This is a man who understands sex (too bad ladies, he's gay) and that understanding translates to his music. (Listen to the building of the crescendo in the song "Until the rain stops," That's an orgasm if ever I heard one. A true manipulation of sexuality via the senses.
The range of his voice is exceptional - there's probably some technical term for it but as I don't know it I'm just going to say he explores the entire length of his vocal cords with the emotional intensity that has become the trademark of his work. I do believe however that he has a guest soprano on the album - on "Nazi Falls" - (either that or he has had some surgery that he hasn't told me about...)
Speaking personally as somebody who is more comfortable with the written word than the mysterious world of music, I have to say I am often very disappointed when a tune is able to perfectly capture an emotion only to be let down by trite or cliched lyrics. One of the things I have always admired about Andrew is his determination to convey his message with all elements of his art. As much effort has gone into the lyrics as the music, some of which could actually make a respectable claim to stand alone as modern poetry. I particularly enjoyed the poignancy of the lyrics in the song "You should be with me." (OK I'll admit I cried. Oh to be a romantic...).
Having a personal relationship with the artist, I'm aware of some of Andrew's own musical tastes and some of the influences can clearly be seen in this work. Its influence not imitation, Andrew has very definitely established his own voice and musical identity but even the very greatest of artists have inspiration and this particular musician is no exception. The raw simplicity of Tori Amos singing alone at her piano, the epic showmanship of Rufus Wainwright and the cynical ennui of Janis Ian are all very evident on this album. I'd also be able to guess if I didn't know already that Andrew is rather keen on Chopin. The second track "Better Off" has a very distinctive Chopin-esque feel. My husband described it as reminiscent of music belonging to a slightly dystopian ballet.
I've mentioned a couple of songs already but what I would like to do is highlight a couple of my favourites on the album. Andrew will no doubt tell me I have picked the most easily accessible ones (he says precisely that every time we both like an album) but in truth I think an artist who can make me fall in love with a song on the first listening has got what it takes to make me come back and listen to the more complicated stuff. "John Doe" to be fair probably is the most mainstream song on the album but it would make a great single and it grabbed me from the first play. I also liked "Dot Cotton" (which for my American audience I will just explain is a character from a British soap opera. Nice to see Andrew hasn't lost his sense of humour...)
This one in particular was a very intimate song and I can imagine it being sung impromptu to a small group of people, sweeping the mood of the room along with it. That really is the hallmark of the music I want to listen to - something that will make me feel. Like I said I know nothing about the intellectual or the scientific side of music and I'm not interested in all that nonsense anyway. I listen to music for the same reason I read books and poetry - to make me feel something. If it fails to engage my emotions then as far as I'm concerned no matter how clever it is, its failed. This is why I have always listened to Andrew Pisanu and why I will always continue to do so. He knows how to engage me on an emotional level and I can't ask any more than that from any artist.
I'll leave you with a link to the music video from Andrew's album. Its pretty surreal but it sets the tone for the album beautifully. I'll also remind you that the album is out on 2.12.2013 and you can buy it here.
Join the Witch Path Forward Facebook community. (Click the icon).