Over the holidays, when I was attempting to mellow out a bit, I was passed along a series of songs by pianist Bean Friend. While I’m not typically listening to solo piano music in my house, I must say that Bean’s particular sounds were quite comforting and a bit mesmerizing.
I first came across Bean one day when he was working at Public Espresso in The Hotel @ The Lafayette. We got to talking about Buffalo, and his desire to create music in Buffalo. Bean had just moved to Buffalo from Toronto, and was learning his way around town.
Part of the learning process was to explore the nooks and crannies, which is what led him to Silo City. That is where he came across the silos, and their majestic and mystical ability to reverberate sounds. It was upon discovering the musical attributes of the silos that he decided to embark upon recording an ambient piano album. “I picked up a free piano off of Craigslist, hauled it down to the silos, and started experimenting with the sounds of the silos!” said Bean. “It’s been a great experience and I’m really excited about the sounds that I’ve been capturing. The space of the silos is just as important of an instrument as the piano. As the songs go on, the “drone” sound is the sound of the room microphones that are about 20 feet up in the air, in the middle of the silos. Nothing was added in post production. The silos really offer an amazing natural reverb!”
The Moving Decade is a haunting yet hopeful ambient piano album performed and recorded in Silo City, a collection of non-operational cement grain silos located on the banks of the Buffalo River in Buffalo, NY. Each of the songs in this album was recorded in a single take, utilizing a handful of strategically placed microphones and one upright piano, placed deep within the belly of the silos. The silos act not only as an echo chamber, reverberating the emotive qualities of Bean Friend’s piano compositions, but also act as a mouthpiece for the sounds of their surrounding external environment. Discerning listeners will be able to pick out the chirps of a distant cricket, the splash of water draining through the dilapidated silo’s ceiling and the crack of active hammers and nails; a reminder of the dynamic forces necessary for the rejuvenation of this historic Rust Belt site.
Bean was born in San Francisco, moved to Philadelphia when he was 10, lived in Toronto for the past 3 years, before moving to Buffalo in June.
“Buffalo is where my wife grew up,” said said Bean. “She’s a “boomerang”. Toronto is known as a city with vivid diversity and rich culture – which it is. In such a big city, you are surrounded by many artists which makes for a great community but also makes for a lot of struggle, competition, and above all, a lot of “no”. When I moved to Buffalo I wasn’t sure what to expect of the art scene and wasn’t sure how people would react to a new artist in town. What I have found is that Buffalo is warm and welcoming no matter what the season. I’ve been greeted by Buffalonians who are talented, enthusiastic, supportive, and above all, those who say “yes”. I feel so grateful that one of those Buffalo ‘yeses’ was from Rick Smith (owner of Silo City), because the result was that I’m able to be a part of the amazing culture being created and supported at Silo City. When people ask what it’s like coming here, I legitimately say that I feel like all of my dreams can come true in Buffalo… and they are.”
Bean’s album, “The Moving Decade” has officially digitally dropped. His website, www.beanfriend.com, has been updated to correlate with the release of the album – check it out and listen to some of the tunes. Listeners can stream the whole album, buy the album, and get more information about it. It’s also available to stream/buy on iTunes, Spotify, Bandcamp, CDBaby, and Amazon.
Max Collins and Bean will be having a listening party/art show on January 21 at Big Orbit. Collins contributed the album art, and he will be showcasing his photography from Silo City at the show.
“The Moving Decade is an ambient piano album, recorded in Fall 2015 in Marine A – Silo City, Buffalo. It’s a minimal album. No overdubs or second guesses.” – Bean Friend
Photographs Beth Insalaco