Daniel Biro (pronounced Bee-ro) has a Hungarian background, but the London-based composer, keyboardist, producer, improviser, songwriter, sound-designer, label director, and video artist, grew up in Italy, and then France, which has endowed him with a rich dose of mixed European cultural flavors. Daniel, who is inspired by the 70’s classic electronic/analogue synth artists such as Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk and Vangelis, among others, has a particular passion for his signature sound instrument – the Rhodes electric piano, acquired while gigging on main squares of quaint villages around the South of France with the Jazz Conservatory of Monaco big-band led by cult jazz figure Roger Grosjean, with whom he studied for eight year. The album also nods to progressive rock performers like Mike Oldfield and King Crimson, as well as ambient minimalist composers like Steve Reich and Brian Eno.
Daniel Biro has his own experimental music label, called Sargasso, and has released 12 albums and written music for film, TV, theatre, contemporary dance, and multimedia installations. Biro also performs with his 2 bands Mysteries of the Revolution (jazz-rock, groove, psychedelic) and Echo Engine (ambient, experimental, improv).
The album “120 onetwenty” is in essence a one hour instrumental vintage keyboards suite that was inspired, conceived, performed, recorded and produced, over a 6-year period. The album is dedicated to Biro’s brother Nico who originally introduced him to much of the above music but who sadly died a few years ago of alcohol-related causes.
“120 onetwenty” is a work as ambitious as it is fascinating. Every weapon in Daniel Biro’s large arsenal is used, and the songs find themselves filled with impossibly lush arrangements. Analogue vintage keyboards like Rhodes electric piano, Moog and Roland synths, Clavinets, Hammonds etc., as well as atmospheric ambience converge to create sweeping, majestic compositions.
And despite the incredible amount of simultaneous sounds, the instrumentals never turn into indiscernible walls of sound and always stay focused, and the keyboardist’s unique blend of classical, jazz, ambient and progressive music makes this album’s melodies some of the most rewarding in this blend of genres.
What’s most interesting about “120 onetwenty” is arguably not simply the melodic content – although all exceptionally well-written – but the concept. The album strives to create vintage motifs and sonic sketches that would otherwise be all but forgotten in the computer age.
But what truly makes this concept so fascinating is that each of these songs reek of indelible authenticity, without leaning on any purely derivative tropes, Biro transports these instruments into the future. Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of this suite of musical pieces is Daniel Biro’s manipulation of subtle details, as the tone of each piece differs from that of the next, or the one before.
The elegance, mystery, joy, and melancholy, heard in these pieces, combine into one monumental, multifaceted project that may just be one of the twenty-first century’s greatest artistic commitment’s to the sound and use of vintage keyboards. Every single melody is finely crafted with the greatest care, and all of the useless, meandering fat so commonly associated with the progressive and experimental genres is trimmed away.
All of which makes this an essential release for all those interested in contemporary instrumental music. “120 onetwenty” is the manifestation of Daniel Biro attempting to do something so considerable and noble that even in failure, the musical world would become a better place just because of his effort.
I could rattle off the song titles if you want, I could even describe my own interpretation of each piece, in picturesque detail, but I honestly would not nearly be able to do this music the same level of artistic appreciation your own ears would be capable of. Please pick up “120 onetwenty”, and listen carefully to each of the ten tracks contained within the album if you have any affinity at all with the aforementioned genres, or exquisitely and intelligently performed, and produced music, in general.