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Album Review: Uto'pians, Vol. 3
Blue Spiral Records and Various Artists
Cover image of the album Uto'pians, Vol. 3 by Blue Spiral Records and Various Artists
Uto'pians, Vol. 3
Blue Spiral Records and Various Artists
2022 / Blue Spiral Records
50 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Uto'pians, Vol. 3 is the third in a series of compilation albums that feature piano and piano-based music from all over the world to raise funds for a "common cause." The sixteen artists on this album were chosen by the curator, Jordane Tumarinson, and part of the profits will be donated to Centre Athenas, a Wildlife Rescue Center based in France. Tumarinson explains the origins of the title: "a utopian is a dreamer (today we need dreamers like us) who believe in harmony with society and with nature. Also, it is a game of words with pians: piano." Blue Spiral Records is an independent record label based in Italy and I am constantly amazed by the artistic quality of their releases.

Some, but not all, of the tracks were recorded on felted/soft pianos, a practice where felt or another soft cloth is placed between the strings and hammers of the piano to soften the percussive impact of the hammers hitting the strings. Sometimes this also allows the sounds of the inner workings of the piano to become part of the music. Two of the tracks are piano and vocal and a few include various electronic sounds and effects. It's a fascinating collection that holds together beautifully despite the diversity in the music!

There are too many tracks to mention them all, but I can tell you about some of my favorites:

The album begins with "The Upfloating Moon" by The Hillside Project, British composer/pianist/drummer Josh Hill's "space to try things out." Quiet, peaceful and dreamy, it's a great way to start!

Hiroco M. started her classical piano training at the age of 3 and focuses on the warm, intimate sound of a "soft" upright piano. "Any" expresses deep inner thoughts and emotions simply and very effectively. I really like this one!

Canadian pianist/composer Sarah Watson's "Dawn" is one of the shorter pieces, but is perfect in its brevity. Light and relaxed, it expresses the warm optimism of the start of a new day when everything is bathed in pastel colors and anything is possible.

British composer/film producer Melissa Parmenter's "Firefly" has a very fluid tempo that expresses the grace and beauty of these amazing creatures.

I love Iranian composer Mahan Farzad's "The Sky Above," a beautifully ambient piano solo with some electronic enhancements. This piece runs a little over seven minutes, but is pure piano magic as it offers a gentle massage for the mind.

Dutch composer Lennart Altgenug's "Sailing Stones" is dreamy and delicate with a touch of melancholy. Also a film composer, the piece has a very visual, expressive quality that I really like.

Ludovico Nisi's "Noises" is one of the two piano/vocal tracks on the album. Poetic and deeply emotional, the music includes ambient and atmospheric sounds behind the piano/vocal.

"Heroes" by Tal Babitzky (Lithuania and Israel) is a beautiful piano solo without felting or additional sounds - just the piano in all its glory! Quiet and thoughtful, it's a heartfelt tribute.

French composer Antan's "Cime" expresses deep emotion very simply and sincerely. The felted piano is dark and mysterious with occasional jazzy flourishes and brings this excellent album to a close.

Uto'pians, Vol. 3 is available to stream or download from Amazon and Apple Music/iTunes, and can also be streamed on Spotify and Deezer. I give it an enthusiastic both thumbs up!!!
March 25, 2022
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