The deconstruction of a piano to digital noise
Josh Alexander’s classically trained pianist skills are front and centre in his debut album “Hiraeth”. The contemporary composer primarily uses the piano as his main weapon of choice but when Josh adds a kaleidoscope of synths to the mix too, he shines as a bright new composer onto the music scene.
The album itself is subdued and melancholy but with warmth. The warmth comes from different places though. In “An Apology”it is from how close and intimate the piano sounds, but from the single “Dusk” it is from the synths that create the softest hazy brass like arrangement of fluffy clouds. They are the kind of synths that wrap you up and make you smile and its chipper melody only helps this. “Cirrus” on the other hand is all about how delicate the piano and synth string undertow is being played. Like whispy clouds, the track flips in the tiniest flecks of reversed notes here and there and it feels like you are a child merrily skipping to your own beat.
“Elan” switches the quietly uplifting tone to something more traditional with a gentle layer of sadness and isolation. Josh plays with volume controls here as one section of the piano fades away to let the higher notes echo out louder and manipulate your emotions perfectly. “Canter” is a warm synth piece that you’d find in an indie coming of age movie. Warm, rubbery and nodding towards retro gaming with its modular synths, the piano only joins in to embellish it right at the end as your canter turns to a gallop. “Suspend” should really be called sustain as it is the echoing reverb that is the main event in this minimalistic interlude that runs into the superb “On Arrival”. It’s a simple circular motif that rotates around and around on vaporwave synths like a merry-go-round and I could listen to its hypnotic rhythm on repeat over and over. “Murmur” continues the push into synth artistry with dark, growling dystopian tape chewed synths similar to the wonderful work of Heinali. Hidden underneath is the beauty of an intimate piano but you can barely hear it as the synths distort and float around you. It’s an inspired piece that leads excellently onto the lost and wandering “Backwoods” with its tiniest dissonant note crossovers that make a beautiful melody sound a little sinister. Over the course of the track, the piano is broken down into pieces of synth modules – the percussive hammer is like an attack and splits away from a celestial bleep of the melody itself. “Magna Briar” then soothes you into a quiet slumber that “Elan Reprise” rounds off with gently – returning to the piano after seeing the very fabric of it taken apart and digitised into unrecognisable sounds.
Hiraeth is a superb album from Josh Alexander. His ability to take sounds apart or merge them seamlessly into a blended tonal shift is top class and its what makes his compositions unique. Nothing stays the same sonically for more than a few moments and so you are always taken on a journey. Sometimes happy, sometimes pensive, sometimes a lilting sigh – but always a joy to listen to – Hiraeth is superb.
Recommended track: Cirrus
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