Piano based melodies from the slower side of life.
New Zealand pianist and composer Levi Patel released his second album ‘A Shifting Lightness’ earlier this year. A gentle and reflective album of delicate beauty, it is one of those albums that needs time to percolate in your mind before you can feel its effects. Levi Patel works in the realms of melodic and understated music that works best in the late hours of night or as a calming awakener.
Following closely in the pitter patters of Ed Carlsen and to a slightly lesser extent Olafur Arnalds and Daigo Hanada, Levi Patel’s piano work is gracious. It has a soft production with a long tail roomy reverb. Each piece is slow but melodic. I wouldn’t describe it as minimalism though – there is plenty going on. It is just that each melody rings out with a slow country lifestyle canter. Life slows down when listening to this album and each track is designed to unwind your mind.
Adding to the piano is a lush string arrangement that joins in for several of the tracks. There is a recurring piano motif of raining chords on the piano that has a variety of different string arrangements to them and each time its revisited, the arrangement seems to swell and get bigger. ‘Her Angeled Beauty’ is a slow and slinky piece that marvels at the simple grandeur of a simple melody. ‘With Wings Falling’ works like an emotional cinematic moment of clarity as the strings sweep in over a light piano structure. The strings act like emotional wells throughout the album. They add much-needed texture and depth. Also adding to this is the subtle use of french horns and clarinets. Bass is used scantly across the album but that is where these instruments come in, just when a full-bodied surge is required.
This culminates on the ninth track ‘A Landscape of Her Own’ which has a light choral arrangement join in the strings and piano. It feels like a musical sunrise as the music, which has been relatively upbeat all the way through, feels almost devotional. It is the album’s breakthrough moment and all the tracks beforehand lead up to that moment. With ‘All Around Us’, Levi also starts to bring in gentle synth glistens to the piano which is replaced by an acoustic guitar for closer ‘Into A Hidden Place’.
After repeated listens, I grew fonder and fonder of ‘A Shifting Lightness’ as its overall production became more familiar with me. As the album progresses, largely the album moves from a lower frequency to a higher and lighter (airy) sound. It is as if the music gets lighter over the album, especially as the last two tracks are more celestial synth-drenched. It is a clever idea and one that works well. Levi Patel may not be a name you are familiar with yet in contemporary classical music, but this album should go some way to putting his name into much larger circles for future impressive works to follow.
Recommended track: Her Angled Beauty
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