Epic piano led modern classical moments in time
Over the last few years I’ve really found myself embracing modern classical music where textures aren’t just orchestral – they are synth drenched. Niklas Paschburg is part of this increasing breed of composer that doesn’t shy away from making his cinematic music equal parts synth, piano, string or even guitar-based. The end result is that his newest album ‘Svalbard’ surprises and entertains in equal measure.
It is easy to categorise it as sci-fi cinema music at times because of the scale and epic breadth of the tracks but that would be unfair. For every track like ‘Cyan’ which absolutely casts you away to another world with epic strings, pianos and that post-rock guitar echo that part becomes part of the fabric of this genre, there is a ‘Little Orc’. Its accordion and quirky jaunty step piano feel more in step with LittleBigPlanet at times with its quirky character. Then you have the autumnal ‘Season Shift’ which is synth bass-led and plays with gentle trickles of piano over foreboding hums. You’ll also have the delicate ballad of ‘Duvet’ to offer you safety and comfort whilst ‘Husky Train’ offers ambient afterglow textures.
What I came away with from ‘Svalbard’ is a really rounded musical story. There are recurring instruments and themes. The kaleidoscope rousing finale of ‘Winter Born’ at the end of the album feels earned because you’ve had to grapple with the angular and aggressive ‘Arctic Teal’ which bellows brassy bass growls at you. The quieter tracks often feel otherworldly whilst holding strong melodies. They feel rooted but ethereal – a bit like Svalbard itself. You see, Svalbard is an archipelago off the coast of Norway. Its rugged glaciers and harsh habitat and both beautiful but dangerous. Humans don’t live there and yet it feels so familiar. I feel like Niklas Paschburg translated this strange familiarity that is just out of grasp into the orchestrations and instrumentation of the album. Sometimes I can’t tell what the instrument is but I can have a good guess. Other times the music feels ominous or celebratory but always just out of reach. It is really clever and made me genuinely interested to find out more about Svalbard too.
Ultimately though – has Niklas Paschburg made a great album? Yes. Even without all the geographical references you can sit back and enjoy the musical journey of discovering a new musical world. Its icy and cold exterior hides plenty of warmth and beauty inside. It is a modern classical gem that you don’t want to overlook.
Recommended track: Cyan
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