Debuting his second album The Blue Hour, Federico Albanese grins sheepishly at his eclectic audience at The Forge, explaining how this was his first ‘real’ performance of the new music, after cutting his finger slicing tomatoes before his last gig in Cologne.

Thankfully, the wound left no lasting damage and what followed was a haunting set of masterful, meditative melodies. Albanese has created a slice of modern classical that blends a real skill on the piano melded with sombre, ethereal synth. Using an impressive tech set up, balanced beautifully on top of the Steinway, Albanese’s hands fly between iPad and piano a to create fragile and wafer thin electronic layers. These add a sense of emotional openness that felt like wandering tentatively through a melancholic wonderland.

So seamless is the move between the keyboard and the array of buttons, pads and wires that one wonders whether technology should be classed as an instrument in its own right. Certainly, it was responsible for creating some of the most moody atmosphere that the sensitive piano playing was drenched in. His touch on the piano is light, perceptive and attentive, skittering over the ivories like a tamer Esbjorn Svensson or Jakob Karlzon.

Milanese born Albanese has a CV that includes several film scores, which is clearly evident in his live gigs too. The hallucinatory dreamscapes he sews together just ache to accompany some on-screen late-night emotional turmoil. Whilst the evening never really reaches a musical climax, that creates goosebumps and tingles, it is nonetheless a welcome balm to the ears and soul.

It’s a shame that the carefully constructed music was occasionally tainted by the sound of tills pinging, receipts printing and kitchen doors slamming: unwelcome accessories to Albanese’s beautiful musical washes. Perhaps with a louder, more raucous act it wouldn’t be a problem but during this set, every external noise felt like a rude awakening from the otherwise tranquil spell that Federico’s playing cast.

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