Los Angeles-based composer Rob Simonsen will be releasing his debut LP, Réveries, on September 6 via Sony Masterworks. Having scored a plethora of major films, including 500 Days of Summer, Life of Pi, and Moneyball, Simonsen has turned his attention to his solo output, and the result is Réveries, a masterful work of modern composition. Delicate piano passages are imbued with a strong sense of melody and purpose, while additional electronic arrangements are hinted at, living in the background, and Simonsen’s history in film composition is immediately evident.
‘Argente’ sets the scene with a heartfelt, mature, and understated melody, gently repeating its mantra over and over as it gracefully steps over the piano’s keys. The music has enough of a shadow to place it in the area of modern composition, reflecting either a lovelorn heart or a mood of introspection, but brighter lights are capable of entering, shining through the dust with higher registers and rising strings. Softly-struck and subdued notes eventually yield to soaring crescendos, bringing the music’s developing scene to life and projecting it with plenty of emotional power onto the bigger screen of an LP.
Simonsen’s music is part of a wider world, its musical apartment being a window which gazes out at the bigger city below. His music exists within a living, breathing ‘urban aesthetic’, and this is down to the music’s recording locations of Paris and Los Angeles. It goes hand-in-hand with an urban environment, with each track resembling a snapshot of any given place or episode in life. Réveries walks along the boulevards and through arrondissements, looking up, looking around.
Three self-directed music videos accompany Réveries, and all explore the dislocation between nature and the unnatural presence of human architecture. This is the life of the city. Train lines cut through it all, providing arteries and pathways, but leaves on the line and high winds can still stop the service in its tracks. Skyscrapers and grand designs surround the music, but instead of it feeling very small, the piano feels like a vital connection, a necessary and wanted thread of electricity running through the system, one soul in among a million, but every note being equal. It has its place here: this is its home, and the city accommodates the music, fitting it into its urban lifestyle.
This juxtaposition can be heard within the music, too, with a subtle introduction of the digital among the more natural – and apparently ageless – sound of the piano. The city is a playground. The strings know it, and the piano is young and free. The pieces are fully formed, with sweeping strings and the angelic chorus of ‘Ciel’ providing both cinematic depth and a glimpse of a higher, skyward beauty. The music wakes up to a brighter dawn, and although the city is jam-packed, you’d never know it for its exhalations of peace.