Mhairi Hall has been creating beautiful piano pieces for years but ‘Airs’ is her first solo album. The Scottish composer and pianist has taken time to record it and that delicate touch is transposed onto her compositions.
Mhairi plays a Steinway and it is rich in tone and has a gorgeous sustain to it but that isn’t her only trick. ‘A Peak Apart’ opens the album, very much inspired by Celtic lands, with simple harmonium accompaniment to her piano. It slowly builds up and then softens to a hush like the blaze of a sunset. ‘St Kilda’ has thee waves lapping against the rocks in the background. It is so gently placed, initially, I thought it might be the piano’s velvet. ‘Sileas’ brings in strings and a bass-driven organ. It is little touches that make ‘Airs’ flow as an album and stop it ever becoming simple mood music.
The other tracks are piano solo compositions and remind me of Studio Ghibli. Ghibli’s piano music often feels simple and evokes Japanese country simplicity with it. Mhairi’s does the same but for the Celtic lands. There is a playfulness and innocence to parts of the songs such as ‘The Parting Glass’ and ‘Crear’. Elsewhere, ‘Skye’ has a devotional wonderment about it and an open fresh air quality to it. ‘Mhairi’ is an interesting piece that pairs the piano with an old Scottish folk rhyme. The whole album has a longing and appreciation for Scotland and this track is where that embrace is warmest.
Gentle, upbeat, warming and thoughtful, Mhairi Hall has created a love letter to her home and the open land around her. Soothing and relaxing but with a hint of rose-tinted gooeyness, ‘Airs’ is an excellent album to unwind with.