Bruno Bavota
The Secret Of The Sea






The Secret Of The Sea is the third album by Naples-based pianist Bruno Bavota who is back with a liquedous suite of eleven unique compositions which is released in April 2014 on Keith Downey’s Psychonavigation Records. The CD and a digital version are available at Bandcamp and can be fully streamed there. This third album is an important step for the Modern Classical composer, and the reason for its importance is hidden in the first sentence of this review, for I have willfully added an error in there. Bruno Bavota is no designated pianist anymore! He probably never was, but always politely reduced his other skills amid his work. Not anymore, so here is the news: the artist now adds a guitar to his album. Even though the piano remains the most important instrument and serves as the basis of every arrangement, with two of them  being dedicated piano arrangements, the guitar adds an element of innocence to the sceneries. And innocence is very much needed indeed, for The Secret Of The Sea has a grave subtheme which is not revealed by its title, even though the word Secret is seldom translucent, let alone awash with light. Basically, Bavota’s album is more often than not about chasing one’s dreams. A noble endeavor in our society of workaholics, but not here on this album where the dreams are so far away or deep down below that there is zero chance of an Angel investment approval. Inspired by the landscapes of Naples and its adjacent ocean, Bruno Bavota delivers a polyvalent interpretation of successes, setbacks and the pondering in-between these elating and crestfallen phases. Read more about a work whose two instrumental columns – piano and guitar – conflate with elysian joy… and the lurking evil within the half tones and shifts.


The opener of an album is always the most important artifact, and no, this is not necessarily a superfluous remark per se, regardless of whether an opener is seen as important due to the soulless copy-and-paste machinery of long-gone Eurodance collectives and other one-hit wonders or whether it is hailed because of a long range of concept albums and truthful endeavors from deep within an artist’s heart. Bruno Bavota’s Me And You is essential for a comparably mundane reason: it features a bucolically pulsating guitar aorta played by him. The big deal, if you will, is its function as a striking countermovement to his second album La Casa Sulla Luna (2013) which was based on piano aureoles and moments of chamber music. Pristine piano keys are also gracing the opener, adding an argentine luminosity (or lachrymosity?) to the – careful there – Dream Pop mirage. Neon overtones, electric guitar currents and that certain amount of reverb make this languorous piece compatible to the final credits of a film. But it is obviously just the beginning. Les Nuits Blanches could, however, be an unused take of La Casa Sulla Luna thanks to its strikingly nocturnal theme. An honest-to-goodness piano arrangement with a pitch-black background, aerose chord helixes and an interdependency on accelerating tone sequences as well as capsules of quiescence, it not only shows every composer’s point of origin, but Bavota’s in particular. The Man Who Chased The Sea, meanwhile, is an aquatic alteration of Don Quixote, supercharged with delightfully high-plasticity guitar licks complete with fret particles, abyssal piano bursts which augment the atmosphere, and a yet again increasingly pressing exiguity. Thankfully, the multi-instrumentalist never lets the frilly ornaments and good-natured mirth out of focus, even though the leitmotif of hopelessness almost demands it.


Hidden Lights Through Smoky Clouds then unveils a take on the electro-acoustic movement of the Modern Classical movement. A strikingly synergetic piece with a New Age-oid Dream Pop opening phase, followed by a galloping piano formation in golden vivacity, it is the glacial backdrop which surprises. Resembling a synthetic airflow of ethereal erethism, I am not sure whether this is the heterodyned haze of a heavily processed guitar or not, but it has to be something in that vein in order for the album to be based on the two columns which are, in the end, keyed and stringed. While If Only My Heart Were Wide Like The Sea sees Bruno Bavota give in to the feeling of Mediterranean rurality in this sepia-toned guitar-driven diorama of a rectilineal reticulation of sun-kissed acoustic guitar strumming and interstitial piano adjuvants, Constellations follows these aural olive orchards in a less contemplative, more saltatory-uplifting kind of happiness. The guitar undulation is both fragilely pointillistic and vibrantly scintillating, every sequence emits bold doses of insouciance.


The centerpiece Plasson follows, running for over five minutes. A song about the eponymous artist who, according to the liner notes, "loved to paint the sea on a canvas just using sea water" which led to white oceanic landscapes on that very canvas, it is another song that implies hopelessness despite an otherwise good-willed endeavor, and so some of the chords lead to vestibules of sadness and desiccate harmonies. Bavota’s piano-based melodies, however, are charged with ambiguity and enshrine contentment during sundown, leaving a spark of hope to fathom and cherish. Northern Lights then leads to the expected hibernal crystal antrum of limewashed keys, cauterized strings and their electronically processed afterglow, with The Boy And The Whale serving as another piano arrangement hued in the power of friendship via chords of thankfulness, boyish charm and the occasional ocean wave. The eponymous The Secret Of The Sea is Bavota’s histrionic-cinematic sidestep. Hammering piano chords, abysmally deep and staggering bursts as well as dragonfly-like flapped blebs make this a rough affair, with its second part being veneered and coated in sylphlike sorrow. The finale Chasing Stars merges the theme of chasing things with the moon-lit ambience of the sophomore LP La Casa Sulla Luna. The frantic glissando cascades again serve as head-shaking contemporaries, but the flamboyant chords that follow negate the negativity and epitomize the genius whose happiness is the bright lighthouse in a grey world after all.


Haven't you read sentences like the following before… maybe even twice today: “Album X is Artist Y’s most personal work to date.” Sure you have, and if I execute the audacity of repeating this pattern as well, it is not done so in order to be welcomed in good company, but for reasons to stress the diverse angles of Bruno Bavota’s aesthetics which are – sometimes forcefully so – united here on The Secret Of The Sea. It is the multi-instrumentalist’s most personal album, but this empty hull of a formerly meaningful sentence at least serves as a reminder or marker of the recording technique. Playing both the piano and guitar all by himself and enmeshing these layers, Bavota needs to make them work at all costs. He cannot rely on some kind of improvisation or depend on other instrumentalists as was the case in La Casa Sulla Luna. Rest assured that he succeeds, and considerably so, for he delivers an album that is almost torn apart by its antagonistic forces despite presenting itself in a polished shape. What went wrong? Nothing, as it seems to be part of Bavota’s plan: the theme of chasing a dream is a well-known cultural motif. This theme demands moments of joy, followed by phases of sadness and imbalanced tranquility before the cycle of doubt repeats again. This is the reason why even the most uplifting or eupeptic moments are traversed by shadier insinuations and tones of portent. Likewise, the soothing sinews of rurality in the pieces that are mostly carried by the acoustic guitar offer locations of shelter, but they are pestered by fugacity, waiting for an unexpected airflow to whirl their diffusion away. The Secret Of The Sea has the utmost important reminder in its title already. It isn’t the Sea part. It’s the Secret. I propose the blending of them to form the term Seacret, for this catchy – if admittedly chintzy – slogan described Bruno Bavota’s collection of aqueous arcana best.


Further listening: 

  • You can stream and purchase The Secret Of The Sea at Bandcamp
  • Bruno Bavota and Psychonavigation Records are on Twitter: @BrunoBavota & @psychonav.


Ambient Review 336: Bruno Bavota – The Secret Of The Sea (2014). Originally published on Apr. 23, 2014 at