Daniel Biro’s album 120 – Onetwenty presents audiences with an hour long instrumental journey through emotional expression and audio exploration. This dedication to his late brother beautifully encapsulates both the artist’s creative perspective and his unquestionable abilities as musician. From the first few seconds, the scene laid out before you is all at once complex and calming, detailed and smoothly ambient. As things progress, expectations are greatly exceeded or even thrown completely aside. If ever there are artistic projects that seem completely free from industry influence and entirely connected to the mind and passion of their maker, this is undoubtedly one of them.
The great thing about this release is that, as a listener, you generally set aside the musician behind the music. This is not to discredit his work or his importance in the journey, quite the contrary – this is a celebration of what has been achieved. The connection is so intense, the music so very colourful and unique and easy to escape into, that it seems an experience created for and catered to oneself alone. The first ten minutes offer up a dreamlike delicacy that allows you to lie back into its embrace, and listen, or watch – within your own mind – the lightly pulsing life of the music and the movement within it.
This project was over six years in the making, something which adds immensely to its rarity, and reinforces the effort and emotion that has gone into it. The vibe of the sound is generally uplifting, the feelings it passes over to you are joyful, hopeful, soothing, inspiring. To consider the time invested, and to consider the difficulty one inevitably must face when losing a loved one, is to perhaps view the musical journey a little differently. On the other hand, to consider this as a celebration of a life, of the music and artistry discovered through that life, is to quite easily accept and enjoy the positivity. Not thinking too much and thinking consistently work equally well in the presence of this soundscape, in my opinion.
Setting aside personal connection to the music for a moment, Daniel Biro is no stranger to crafting complex and powerful musical works of art. This project showcases his abilities on an intense level, particularly when you consider the sheer variation instrumentally, as well as this wonderful balance that has been achieved between the manic presentation of certain notes, and the gentle, smooth presentation of others. The full composition feels consistently relevant and connected to itself, though at no point are you likely to find yourself clinging on to some familiar riff or moment. The hour long experience evolves at a constant pace. It feels extremely mellow, like a dream settling in as you drift off to sleep, but the progression is notable, ever changing, and quite striking when you really focus in on it.
In terms of the performance, the instrumental choices, the technical aspects – Biro has used mainly analogue vintage keyboards such as Rhodes electric piano, Moog and Roland synths, Clavinets, Hammonds – as a result, the album feels like that of a subtle, retro orchestra. This could easily be the jazz cafe vibes CD you stumble upon across certain parts of Europe. Alternatively, it is the sound of the 70’s or 80’s, drawing you back into their worlds with this live, electronically driven approach to personal expression. When the energy picks up, particularly around the 20 minute mark, the complexity and skill of the performance really makes itself known. Following this, there seem to be several slight shifts in influence or genre, moving at one point into the classic film category – perhaps perfect for illuminating those sci-fi moments of intense team struggle.
Later on, chaos is followed by calmness, high energy is replaced by space and a moment or two of personal reflection. This back and forth between moods occurs more than once, but as stated, it is never at the cost of that necessary thread – that underlying atmosphere that is the project in the full. It is merely the changing scenes of the story-line – the pages being turned, the layers of life being explored. There are occasional moments of stillness that teeter into darkness, 38 minutes in marks something of a sinking sensation. Again, calmness returns afterwards, and space, and freedom to reflect. Then the manic build-up begins again, the energy rises, taking yours with it, and the whole process continues to captivate and consume.
Towards the very end, the final few moments, the music explodes into something of a more modern, slightly industrial arena of audio. The synths feel a little more fresh somehow, the mood of the music feels optimistic, there’s a brief sense of possibility, and then there’s a sudden sinking feeling once again – followed by a mildly unsettling silence. All of this adds powerfully to the entrancing experience.
120: onetwenty is a work of art, as close to cinematic as music gets, and without question an album that is quite incomparable and likely enjoyable for audiences with many different musical preferences. Daniel Biro has a crafted a unique and mighty album, and it’s far from the first to his name. A musician and creative well worth getting to know.