If Philip Glass and Sigur Ros made a piano album.
Sometimes its quite difficult to convey why a certain album or piece of music really connects with you as a listener. Sometimes its a melody, or a feeling or an emotion that pulls you in. With Cécile Seraud and her debut album ‘Shoden’ – it was its raw nature. That can be quite difficult to unpack so I’ll explain as best as I can.
Cécile Seraud is releasing her debut album at the tender age of 42, having found the piano at a young age. She is equally happy quoting piano greats and rock bands alike as her influences and that’s where I’ve created the tag line of ‘Philip Glass meets Sigur Ros’ because it is a merger of two worlds. Seraud merges the traditional classical world with the rough emotions of what I called as Nordic Melancholy. There is a certain nostalgic wane to a lot of Icelandic, Norwegian and Swedish folk, rock and classical music that gives them a certain character. It is this quality that Cécile Seraud brings to her piano work. It is an icy and often emotionally driven work that doesn’t want to fit into a very comfortable box.
Across the album of ten beautiful tracks, Cécile isn’t afraid to completely abandon a strict time signature and lean into one or two notes to hammer home an emotional point before resuming playing again. She does it so well and is able to choose the perfect time to ponder. Whilst tracks like ‘Le Baiser Bleu’ feel especially French in tone, ‘Pen Er Malo’ is as gracefully cinematic as it is emotionally satisfying.
The album is inspired by Brittany in France and the frozen Northern European countries. You can hear the coolness trickle out like snowflakes in the three ‘Shoden’ tracks and the two ‘Frozen Earth’ pieces. Cécile also performs romantically with warm glowing tracks like ‘Tendresses’ and closing beauty ‘Life’. They feel like love letters to the world and moments in time that Seraud wants to document. It is an album to make you smile, even when it wants to soothe you at the same time.
So whilst there is a lot of tradition to this album, Cécile Seraud relishes in stepping out of the guidelines by being expressive and letting the flow of the music and emotion dictate its delivery. It is a wonderful and confident step from someone who clearly knows their instrument and is connected to it on a deep level. This is an album that rewards repeat listens and grows in stature over time. A hidden gem in the strong piano scene of 2020.