James Heather – Reworks

Photo by Fabrice Bourgelle

Alternate interpretation; rework; remix.

Reworks, from post-classical contemporary pianist James Heather, is a selection of alternate versions taken from his Modulations: EP1 and Stories From Far Away On Piano. It releases on Ninja Tune’s offshoot label, Ahead Of Our Time, on December 7.

Echo Collective, Sarah Davachi, Mary Lattimore, DJ Seinfeld, Aparde and Chihei Hatakeyama all feature on the reworked music, while Heather introduces the listener to brand new string quartet arrangements, too. An aching beauty anchors itself to the music, tethering its strings to exquisite harmonies. The record also allows Heather to focus more on the electronic side of music, for which it’s clear he has a deep love. In recent years, modern composition has shifted. The modern and popular style – a melting union of piano and padded electronics – has garnered favour, and Heather uses this to express another side, and one that strictly classical music simply doesn’t allow.

Heather is able to spread his musical wings, stretching out into experimental and electronic fields while also surrendering to the classical timbre of strings. Throbbing synths and delicate, ambient-bejewelled melodies take over the role of the piano, only for the piano to later replace the melody note-for-note in a sweet symbiosis, interacting with its sister symmetrically and in a deeper way. At the same time, each and every artist comes with their own musical philosophy and background, so this adds even more colour and diversity to the record.

Its light, fluttering mood is a well maintained one, but it slips into shadier territory towards the end. The bright mood even shines through in the string quartet version of ‘Empire Sounds’, when notes touch cathedral-high vaults instead of being dragged down by the weight and regality of classical instrumentation. Many differing artistic voices grace the record, but the music gels together with ease. There isn’t any awkward conjoining here, but rather a light atmosphere, uniting in spite of a multitude of minds. The harp adds a beautiful touch to the record, cementing the delicacy of the album, and although electronics sit in the background, the harp doesn’t really need them. It can stand on its own, retaining its plucked web-works of sound and its skeletal-but-angelic timbre.

Added layers boost the overarching sound, but its music remains as innocent as a cherub. Sarah Davachi’s remix is a sombre port, the piano seemingly entrenched in the blinding ground-fog of its low and muddied register, stretching out its endless tone, and the record ends on ambient notes. This is much more than a standard remix collection. The tracks have been put together with great care, and a distinct quality flows throughout the album. Because of this, Reworks feels complete.

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