After the release of 2017’s Finding Shore, a collaboration that saw him team up with Brian Eno, pianist and singer-songwriter Tom Rogerson’s life changed in tumultuous ways. The intervening years brought the birth of a child, the loss of a parent, and an upsetting diagnosis with regards to his own health. He moved from Berlin and returned to Suffolk, a familiar, cosy place dating back to his childhood, and began composing minimal piano pieces in the church beside his parents’ home.
On Retreat to Bliss, which acts as Rogerson’s debut solo album, the piano’s keys as well as his own voice trace over and transcribe deeply personal events. They also reach back into the past, as if wanting to return to more innocent times. Intimate and private thoughts once inside the heart are ushered out through his voice, articulating and expressing what an instrument is sometimes incapable of voicing, coming directly from his soul as they do.
Rogerson opens up, which is a sign of courage, and it reflects his natural demeanour as well as other virtuous qualities within his musicianship. When the shield comes down, there is nothing to hide behind, and this naked vulnerability makes the album even more powerful. It also unmasks an inner strength and a resolve to be yourself. Rogerson releases what was pent up, pouring it out through the piano, which isn’t just a familiar friend but a lifesaver. This is where the music’s authenticity comes from; there isn’t anything artificial about it.
“All my life, the piano has been my constant companion, my confessor, my best friend, and my worst enemy. I’ve always written music on and for the piano, but it felt too personal, too private to release. The last few years have brought some struggle, some joy, and a lot of change. My response has been to retreat to what I trust the most: the piano, my voice, and the landscape I grew up in”.
Heartfelt and poignant, the piano echoes within the walls of the church, a sacred and secluded place for the healing of wounds. Everything unravels in this place. Everything is untied. The return to his childhood home is a cleanser, but a fragility still exists. Something has been hurt and feels the need to go back, but this is also a silver lining, as essential connections are remade once again. Place, his self, and music are all brought back to the centre.
Retreat to Bliss is in tune with itself, allowing Rogerson to return to a more stable and comforting time. It is also a digestion, a reflective pause, and an acceptance of events. It is a sung hymn to his true home, which is found as much in the Suffolk countryside as it is in his piano.