The sea, the sea.
The sea, these clouds, and this mountain.
This piano does something to time.
This whole album smudges time, draws out moments into long blurs of colour. Seven piano pieces by Simon James Phillips that stretch gesture and repetition into a landscape – not an imaginary one, but a potential one; a space for contemplation, sure, but a sense of possibility.
These pieces are not minimal, not maximal – there are nods to Reich and Palestine of course, but also to his work with Chris Abrahams in Pedal, and the uncertain note decays of John Tilbury – the spaces that ring through posture are a particular testament to these last two; these are thoughtful, playful studies – despite the rising tides of overtones and layers, Phillips never lets his playing be overwhelmed by pure texture; the sea always draws back to fluttering patterns. This cyclical pattern is one of the reasons Chair works so well as a repeated listening experience.
These pieces are cumulative, additive. Alone they carefully conjure shifting tones, swells, valleys and peaks of sound – but together as an album, the effect is to further stretch, tease out, our sense of time passing (or nor passing). The kind of album that takes over whole days.
Highlights? It seems slightly perverse to single anything out, so well balanced is the whole set, but the way the rolling, almost romantic opening to poul builds, with simple figures rising to the top around five minutes in, is so warm and detailed that you almost forget there aren’t hidden oscillators or organs buried in the guts of the piano.
This detail points to the care with which Phillips and engineer Mattef Kuhlmey have recorded this set – a church location, careful multiple microphone placements – and yet the swirling clusters and hidden tones means this is never a dry exercise, but a confident, open, beautiful record.
Buy on vinyl, but buy digital too, and leave on repeat.