Oslo based pianist and composer Julia Gjertsen released her debut EP back in 2012 and so her first album has been a long time coming. ‘Fragile’ for the most part was written over several months earlier this year. The album is a beautifully hazy mix of piano and ambient synths that hint at deep mysteries to be unveiled.
Across the eight tracks, Julia Gjertsen has a specific style of composition that dials you in. It is intricate and whimsical with hints of sadness. She is never minimalist because the synth work is always so densely packed around the piano that any breath between notes or passages is filled with synth fog.
‘Hyphen II’ opens the album with this mood in mind. It’s mysterious but enticing and there’s a hidden waltzing pace to things that is also a mainstay through the album. ‘Fragile’ is the track full of percussion and synths as Julia follows in the steps of many Nordic composers of modern classical music. ‘The Fountain’ embraces the classical and ambient side, opening sounding like a lagoon before trickling up the piano notes like a splash of water spilling over the lip. It’s one of the rare moments of pure beauty in an album that is purposely opaque.
‘Flicken’ moves the album into its quieter moments and shines in its production. Gentle shimmering electric guitar synths glisten in the background but the piano sounds closer to a plucked string instrument. When it is mixed with a double bass – it sounds almost festive. ‘Floating’ is the calming ballad where breezy keyboard pads help space out a simple melody. It evokes Japanese country towns for me with its analogue style of recording. The flip side is that ‘No Regrets’ has a radio effect on it and is drenched in reverb. It transforms the piano into a sound of light bells which is uplifting when the synths and percussion kick in. ‘Caress’ returns to that rustic whimsy slow-paced lifestyle sound before ‘Underwater’ closes the album in the same shrouded mystery it opened with.
There is something entrancing about Julia Gjertsen and her compositions. They are quite hypnotic, particularly as they get more complex and layered. The production really helps the album stand out too. This will be a grower not a shower for most piano fans as there are no huge hooks to pull you in but Gjertsen definitely nails the mood of Autumn with this album.
Recommended track: No Regrets
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