Pianotapes was originally conceived by Wells and Schneider for performance at the Dusseldorf Approximation Festival. For this recording, the duo rehearsed the process but improvised the music through unusual interplay. Schneider used two tape-to-tape machines to record Wells playing grand piano. As Schneider plays the recording back at manipulated speeds Wells responds with more variation of key and tone. The gentle experimentation increases after the first few tracks, with tapes slowed and brief snippets of added synthesizer, but the measured pace and uncluttered notes ensure consistently engaging atmospheres that shift along a line that runs between points stately and fragile.
Wells has some fine releases under his own name and has worked with The Pastels, Belle & Sebastian’s Isobel Campbell, and Maher Shalal Hash Baz. He and Schneider (also of To Rococo Rot) previously collaborated (with Annie Whitehead and Baraba Morgenstern) on the 2003 album Pick Up Sticks. Less is more since the duo have the balance of intrigue and emotion just right. The idea of genre and notions of “real” and “fake” are meaningless in the face of this delicate and wonderful record.