With a current piano composer trend pushing the minimalist route, Hania Rani has been an utter revelation pushing in the other direction. Her fluid and expressive piano compositions are in constant motion and flow. I recently picked up her debut album ‘Esja’, released earlier this year, and it has quickly become a powerhouse album.
‘Esja’ is Finish for best friend and its that warm hue that resides in every moment of the album. From the opening rolling swells of ‘Eden’ to the stunning poise of ‘Hawaii Oslo’, Hania refuses to back away from the ivories. Her fingers are always hammering something and that constant trickle of notes is like a symphonic river of emotion. In both the tracks mentioned above, she is able to ride that river to perfection. She takes her melodies from uncertain and occasionally tense moments towards a warm and neat resolution.
Occasionally there are quieter moments in ‘Esja’ but its here where Hania Rani gets to experiment with her piano. ‘Luka’ is like an unfurling ballerina but the piano has been prepared with some extra percussive wires. There is also a very subtle after haze string synth hidden quietly in the background. it’s these little touches that elevate the track from pretty but introspective to something ethereal and dreamlike. ‘Glass’ is another example where the hammers of the piano have been filtered up to sound like tiny glassy taps. The track is a beautiful glacial skip and this subtle production tweak just elevates a gorgeous composition that little bit higher. ‘Biesy’ plays with reverb and microphone distance. One melody is playing slowly and softly upfront but Hania is in full expressive flow on the lower octaves in the distance in the background. It’s rare that I just have to stop everything and listen but this production arrangement captured my imagination so well, I had to.
Throughout all the amazing yet subtle tweaks, if you took them all away, the compositions would still stand out as exceptional. Moments like the emotive second half of ‘Esja’, the powerful torrent of notes of ‘Now, Run’ and the boundless joy of ‘Sun’ – they’re all powerhouses and each song contains several moments that just wisk you away.
Simply put, Hania Rani’s ‘Esja’ is probably my favourite piano album of 2019 and certainly an absolute standout of the last five years. I’ve had the utter privilege of discovering so many talented compositions over the years running this website – Hania is easily on the top tier. Flawless.
Recommended track: Hawaii Oslo
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