There seems to be a lot of solo piano and cinematic classical music these days on the playlists – am I right or am I right? Among the saturation of the “plinking” [as one “journalist” referred to it], a few stand out nevertheless. What the onslaught within the genre accomplishes is a stricter competition for success, and yet it’s fun to think of all the solo piano players fighting for the felt-tipped throne upon the stage (is Nils Frahm still the regent of the kingdom?). Some come and go, alighting and then burning up. Some stay, improving on their skill. Some lurk in shadows only to jump out and strike with sounds of their sharpened sword (or is it dulled instead?), on which they’ve laboured for the many years in the dark. Is this our new knight in his shining armour? Okay, I’ll stop with the analogy, and you’ll forgive me for the quip.
Ô Lake is the project of Sylvain Texier with Refuge being his debut release on a French Patchrock imprint. Besides the splendid piano chords and blissful melodies that ring out long after they’re gone, the album incorporates a string ensemble and some drums. I’ve previously premiered a video by Texier, for “Holocene,” and named his music gentle and serene, so it was only a matter of time before I’d praise his full release at length. I read my own review and still agree: “with genuine sound poetry, the musician drives us to new beautiful shores where the words are absent…” so what’s there left to say? I may have lost the adjectives to give this music all its due, but I have not run out of the desire to go on and listen. And so I let the album gently end and start again. “In the deep forest of a meditative landscape, we found the ‘Refuge’, delicate notes in the course of a steep and misty pathway, prolonged by infinite ‘Reveries’, blurred silhouettes in a glowing ‘Morning’, drifting in the unknown, for a new weightless journey, or the endless return to a shiny world under the snow.” Highly recommended for those who love to drown in the waters of the melancholy piano music, alive with textures, soundscapes and space.
Glasgow-based Richard Luke has already appeared on these pages with a video premiere of his “Everything a Reason” piece from Glass Island debut on the ever-beautiful Moderna imprint. The images themselves convey the delicate and the melancholy aesthetic of the track, which permeates throughout the album on twelve pieces with an outer layer of hope. The solemn piano is joined by Amira Bedrush-McDonald‘s violin, some field recordings of the waves, and soft organic time-based space effects. The duo was inspired by the monumental music from Jon Hopkins, but also from the modern post-rock music of Sigur Rós and Arcade Fire. The combination of these elements is present on these works, polished to shine by the magical touch of Taylor Deupree‘s mastering hand. “The songs are at once tense and disquieting, but with an ever glowing optimism […] The songs have confidence and strength, but also fragility and drama that makes them almost wistful and nostalgic.” Wonderful to play on repeat on your peaceful walks along the choice terrain, or with a candlelight soft-glowing in the night. Watch that video again, then visit Moderna to buy the album!
London-based Phases imprint, which I have just mentioned with the writeup on Peter Sandberg‘s Motion release, signs Alex Kozobolis for his third full-length album, titled Somewhere Else. Recorded and mastered by Ed Hamilton (who previously appeared on Futuresequence and hibernate), the eleven neo-classical solo-piano vignettes shimmer and shine through the clouds of a weather in your mind. The pieces are raw, presented in the nude of the instrument, and thus are very honest and sincere. The melodies are whimsical and playful, but not without a hint of slight regret, as heard on the beautiful two-minute “Nothing Actually Happened” track. “From reflections on childhood memories to elegies for lost friends, every track carries an evocative title and presents an attempt to distil one or more past experiences in miniature by capturing fragmentary snapshots of moments, characters, and life-phases. The record as a whole stands out as a deeply reflective work – a musical approach to autobiographical writing.” The recording is intimate, visceral and off-the-cuff, which will appeal to fans of close-recorded piano hammers, felt and strings. If Kozobolis is a familiar name, it’s because you may have seen it appear in photography credits on many modern marvels. Be sure to also check out his self-titled debut release on 1631 from 2016.