Delicate optimism found through grief via the piano.
The pandemic has changed a lot of peoples lives and one of those is 71-year-old neoclassical composer Frances Shelley. In 2020 she lost her events business and her family home. In the UK, there seems to have been a general line of ‘if you are above a certain age, your life will restart again when we tell you’. Frances Shelley disagrees.
On her new album ‘Songs of Possibility’, she channels that grief and upset into reflective piano-led pieces. Frances has a beautiful flowing style to her compositions. Often her melodies come and go like the tide in pace and power. Time and again the melodies start off quite dark and sad but transform into something that trends upwards towards something a little more optimistic. Frances said that the album was as much about saying she doesn’t believe in these age-related limiting beliefs. She’s not at the end of the road and these songs show that.
There is an ethereal quality to the piano throughout. It is lightly recorded with a long echo to each note. Shelley also uses sound effects and the lightest of electronic bursts to her advantage too. One of the highlights of the album is ‘For Now We See Darkly’. Here the piano is surrounded by ominous bass drones that combine with what sounds like scraped guitar strings. ‘Suffer Not’ broods the piano with a pulsing string arrangement that allows all the bass to fade away and the piano and double bass float into an ethereal future. Other tracks like ‘Intercession’, ‘Mother’ and the title track feel more uplifting and dreamlike. All the synths have a creamy wash to them that makes the music easy to sink into. At times it borders quaintly devotional like a romance movie but it never crosses the line of sincerity.
Frances Shelley knows her craft and nuances inside out. From the opening cascades of the achingly beautiful ‘Racing to Belong’ to the campfire exit of ‘I Hear Voices On The Wind’, it’s a delicate journey. It also feels intensely feminine and nurturing. Like a Luna Wolf licking her wounds in her den, you can feel the setback but it’s not over. If anything, ‘Songs of Possibility’ feels like a hopeful chapter mark, three from the end of the story. A story where everything is about to turn around and feel alright again. Right after the darkest dawn. Grab some wine, settle in and let the ivories take you on a journey. Frances Shelley makes a wonderful tour guide.
Recommended track: For Now We See Darkly
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