Boomkat Product Review:
Brooklyn duo Salenta De Badisdenne and Topu Lyo's debut is a serene sensation, born from low-key improv sessions that blossomed into a suite of delicate, subtly lo-fi cello and piano instrumentals. It's effortlessly lovely, warmly romantic gear - the kinda thing that's in short supply right now. One for fans of Tenniscoats, Laila Sakini, Harold Budd or Elodie.
Originally released in 2021, 'Moon Set, Moon Rise' has been something of a sleeper hit, building up momentum over the last couple of years as it connected with listeners enamored by its exquisite fragility. Salenta, a pianist, and cellist Topu had met in Brooklyn a few years earlier, and immediately realised they needed to play music together. Regular, weekly sessions followed and the duo's chemistry was obvious from the beginning; they never intended to release the material, but recorded it anyway, and their very first jam is included on the album. Playing an old, slightly detuned spinet piano, Salenta paints in filigree strokes around Topu's sparse plucks and fragile bowed notes, providing the improvisations with their backbone. The music sounds as if it's been recorded straight to tape, giving it a gentle, homespun quality that's overflowing with joy. On 'Pyramids and Desert', Salenta's voice hums in the background as she plays; she bursts out laughing at one point, and the words and notes crack, distort and saturate while Topu bends his cello into wavering laments.
It's an album that does a lot with very little. There's no overblown production, and no electronics, using just two instruments recorded in an intimate space to bring out floods of emotion that brim to the surface as they slowly get acquainted with each other. Salenta's old piano has an unusual, folksy sound - like a discarded instrument you'd find in the back room of an abandoned shack - but the recording accents the pitchiness, fluttering as the tape speed fluctuates. Topu's accompaniment is cleverly measured in response - there's no gratuitous virtuosity, and at times he sounds as if he's strumming on an old guitar, or scraping a well-loved family fiddle. Both artists are clearly well trained, able to straddle jazz and folk forms without falling into repetition, on 'I Have Met Miss Jones' Salenta's balletic flourishes dance side-by-side with Topu's hesitant vibrations - you can hear her feet as she presses down on the pedals, and the room as it creaks around them.
'Impression Sunrise' meanwhile is more like an archival cabaret discovery, made up of stirring swells that bring out an elegant romance. It provides the kind of effortless emotional spark that's all too rare - not schmaltzy or overwrought but intimate and sensitive. There's the whimsicality of Andrew Chalk and Timo Van Luijk's Elodie project, and the flawed beauty of Laila Sakini's 'Paloma', with everything wrapped together in a puff of hallucinatory smoke. Salenta and Topu (and their friends) see the music as healing - to be honest, it's exactly what we need.