Archives for posts with tag: piano

nhung-nguyen“Bittersweet” is one of 7 tracks on a new EP called “An Ordinary Narrative” by Hanoi based musician/ composer Nhung Nguyen.

Nhung Nguyen creates atmospheric ambient instrumental music combining acoustic and electronic instruments along with field recordings. This new EP “An Ordinary Narrative” continues a recent theme of using piano as the sole instrument. The simplicity and minimalism may be “an ordinary narrative” but it is heavy with echoes of a ghostly, partially remembered past.

The piano is a perfect universal instrument for conveying a sense of memory,  as well as feelings of nostalgia, regret, happiness, hope… whatever we project on, or draw out of each recording.

The use of field recordings of public pianos, sometimes with their own imperfect out-of-tune character, and then post-production adding the reverb and delay adds to the dream-like nature of these pieces. The magic here is not so much the moment each note is struck but what happens in the space that follows, before the next note arrives.

In “Bittersweet” the occasional background of street noise from passing cars grounds the music at an unknown place and in a point of time. It adds to the atmosphere, the imperfection and to the intrigue. It’s a bit like the music equivalent of watching a flickering old Super-8 film home movie projected onto sun-faded wallpaper.

 

 

Advertisements

Shayne OffsiderDay 15 of our 31 Days of May New Zealand Music Month marathon comes from repatriated Dunedin legend Shayne P. Carter with a track from his “Offsider” album. Here’s “Ahead of Your Time” –

Shayne P. Carter made his mark over dozens of now classic Flying Nun Records releases with Bored Games, Doublehappys, Straitjacket Fits and others last century – then with the brilliant Dimmer this century.

Never one to rest in a comfortable spot musically speaking, proficient guitarist Carter set himself the challenge of mastering the piano and, on “Offsider”, takes his songwriting in new directions.

His approach to the piano is similar to his instinctive approach to the guitar – as much about sound, propulsion, atmosphere, and tension as it is about melody.

Joining him here is regular drum collaborator Gary Sullivan (of JPS Experience) and also saxophonist Richard Steele (saxophonist/ producer of The Puddle’s “Playboys in the Bush”).

John HowardIt’s still Piano Day somewhere in the world (West Coast of the USA in fact, for another few hours) so here’s another song to feature piano as the only instrument.

“Preservation” is a track from a solo album released late last year by Spain-based English singer-songwriter John Howard.

When John Howard’s 1975 album “Kid In A Big World” was reissued to wide acclaim in 2003, it marked his return to writing and recording after twenty years of silence.  Whereas his previous most recent ‘comeback’ album – ” John Howard & The Night Mail” – was a band album, “Across The Door Sill” is very much a solo work, featuring just layered piano and voice, and songs investigating the process of dreams, inspired by 13th Century poet Rumi’s Quatrains.

The influence of John Howard’s own songwriter heroes – Laura Nyro and Roy Harper in particular – are often mentioned in reviews, because of the nature of the long-form, languidly organic compositions and absence of the usual verse/chorus/middle-eight song structure.

However, there’s also much in common on “Across the Door Sill” with the kind of territory John Grant claims today when he sits at a piano. In other words, some richly detailed storytelling (or reflecting on life, the universe and our place within the puzzle), and some elegant dynamic and ever-shifting piano playing.

While the playing here is a kind of classic lounge-pop style of piano rather than jazz, there’s a flowing, fluid, almost improvisational wandering feel at times during the album which reminded me of the playing of multi-instrumental jazz musician Alice Coltrane when I first heard “Across the Door Sill”.

The album – 5 songs stretching out to 8 or 9 minutes – is a late night listen for me. It’s not exactly ‘difficult’ music – it’s too approachable and melodic for that – but it does require a bit of attention and a few listens to reveal its full mastery.

And, because it’s Piano Day, here’s a video of a grand piano… played by a youthful John Howard in a 1975 TV performance:

Shayne P Carter 2016Seven years on from the last Dimmer album “Degrees of Existence” here’s Shayne P. Carter back with the brooding and challenging “We Will Rise Again”

Even though “We Will Rise Again” is centered around Carter’s piano playing, it is still recognisably Shayne P. Carter and there are bursts of brutal guitar noise to remind us of the 6-string sonic background we normally associate with this enduring New Zealand musician.

The other musicians playing on the track are drummer Gary Sullivan (Dimmer, JPS Experience),  bassist Nick Roughan (Skeptics), saxophonist Richard Steele (who played on The Puddle’s “Playboys in the Bush” album) and the intense string arrangements from Tamasin Taylor (Nudie Suits, Peachy Keen).

It’s a somewhat experimental, challenging listen in places, even a little bit Scott Walker at times, although without the difficult angles and baffling weirdness. Shayne P. Carter has always been about the tune and about the sensations of emotion and this song is no exception, despite its differences.

The shifting times signatures, sense of foreboding, dynamics, and especially the muted saxophone part at two and half minutes here are even a little reminiscent the kind of thing serious prog-rock legends Van Der Graaf Generator did back in the 1970s.

This progressive experimentalism was signalled in the notes to that 2009 Dimmer album where Shayne set out a manifesto which could equally apply to “We Will Rise Again” –

“i also wanted to make a return to the more experimental vibe evidenced on our first album which remains my favourite dimmer record to this point. i liked that record because it was brave and unafraid and because it didn’t sound like anything, or anyone, else. while “degrees of existence” is sonically a different beast altogether i think it has that sense of trying things while still dealing in ‘songs’. i’m not interested in music that goes from A to B to C in a fashion you’ve heard a million times before. i’m not interested in pastiche or ripping anybody off. i’m not interested in ‘irony’. i’m also not interested in becoming a ‘family favourite’ , a musician a ‘country can be proud of’, going on game shows or gradually diluting my music as i weary with jadedness and age. fuck that. i wanna make the kind of music that i’d like to hear – and that involves originality, vitality, and, yes, the sense of trying things.”

For the uninitiated, a trip through the back catalogue of Shayne P. Carter bands is a trip through the very best of NZ’s post-punk music. Start with his high school band Bored Games, work your way through Doublehappys and Straitjacket Fits to Dimmer.

 

DSC03638

Summer Isles from Achiltibuie, on the Coigach coast of North-Western Scotland.

There’s not much traditional folk featured PopLib, but there have been a few examples ambient soundscape music featured. The atmospheric “A Tanera Talisman” from Scottish folk composer and multi-instrumental musician Mairearad Green works just as well as an evocative soundscape as it does a haunting example of neo-classic Celtic folk.

“A Tanera Talisman” is from a new album out last week called “Summer Isles”.

If you get up past Ullapool on the North Western coast of Scotland (and not many people do) and turn left down a single track road you’ll eventually come to the end of the road at Achiltibuie and look out over the Summer Isles.

It’s a magical place, usually wet, cold and windy, but occasionally looking as it does in the photo above and on this video for the song:

Mairearad Green is from Achiltibuie but lives in Glasgow. The journey between the two places was the inspiration for her multi-part composition “Passing Places” written for performance at the 2009 Celtic Connections Festival.