A delicate piano balance of sorrow, nostalgia and homely warmth.
Approaching his third album ‘Nordhem’, Henrik Lindstrand is now well into his stride of composing and performing gentle piano pieces. Lindstrand literally sits at the intersection of peace, nostalgia, sadness and optimistic reflection. Nowhere is this more pronounced than with his new album ‘Nordhem’.
The beauty of what Henrik puts together starts off with the piano recording and production. From the opening notes of ‘Dungen’ the piano is recorded up close and personal. You can hear the velvet caress the hammers and the pedal noises. It isn’t clunky – instead, it gently adds ambience to the whole affair. You know you are in for a personal journey when the piano is recorded like that.
Other production quirks may not stand out straight away but there is some beautiful electronic twists going on that you may not pick up on. Take the piano blurring into celestial shimmers with the beautiful ‘Jum-Jum’ for example. It is so subtle you don’t notice it immediately. Subtler still is the way euphoric and playful ‘Bla Berget’ has sections of piano that fade into the distance like a faded photograph. It then blends into an icy distorted organ synth but you’d barely notice it. The album is chock full of these kinds of subtle tricks that evoke emotions left, right and centre.
Henrik Lindstrand is also a master at deciding how to prepare his piano too. On ‘Hallonlandet’ and ‘Syrsor’ the piano is thin, hammer focused and plucky for the main melody but then sumptuous and full-bodied for the low chord breaks in the middle. It is all designed to evoke nostalgia and a feeling of ennui at the same time. It does a sterling job. ‘Gamla Skolor’ and ‘Valborg’ play with piano distortion. The former distorts the note itself whilst the latter plays on the smudging of piano into a mist of noise.
To call the album a purely piano one would be a mistake as ‘Stjärnvägar I’ proves. Here warm synth bass and beats pulsate as if you are out on a winters trek. Coupled with the solemn but homely straight piano ‘Stjärnvägar II’ they bookend the opposite ends of Henrik Lindstrand’s composition scales. The album ends on a more optimistic and embracing tone though. ‘Loranga’ has a bright shimmer and synth underscoring to its uplifting melodies to reinvigorate you from a collection of more subdued tracks. Closer ‘Rest’ is a short call, response and join up of distant organ and piano that feels like a night time nap incoming.
Whilst its the lavish and clever production that I appreciate and admire the most about ‘Nordhem’, that would be nothing without some heartfelt melodies to enjoy them with. Henrik Lindstrand stays simple but stays classy. In doing so, this creates a musical memory bank. It calms, it soothes, it cradles and it caresses. A heartwarming understated gem in modern classical music.
Recommended track: Dungen
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