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Album Review: Shine
Carl Liungman
Cover image of the album Shine by Carl Liungman
Carl Liungman
2022 / Caliu Piano
56 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Shine is the second solo piano album from Swedish composer/pianist Carl Liungman and follows his 2020 debut, Born. Even more intimate than Born, Shine is made up of thirteen original piano solos that Liungman performed on a Schimmel piano. Carl's goal is to let "his music create existential messages and give the listeners reflections of the core of life." Based in southern Sweden, Carl has developed a musical universe based on improvisation - "an emotive expressionistic music style of his own with both rhythmic tension and gentle tunes." (quoted from his website) With extensive studies in both classical piano and jazz, Carl has written chamber and pop music for theater, short films, art installations and poetry projects. He has created jazz poetry with poets and singers, improvising at the piano during poetry slams and other occasions. In his younger years, he was hired as a bar pianist in Sweden. Those experiences plus a wide-ranging list of influences all serve to create a musical voice that is uniquely his own. I found this quote on Carl's website especially interesting:

"The Swedish pianist and composer Carl Liungman works exclusively with acoustic pianos. He finds a unique sonic expression which contemporary digital instruments cannot replicate. Carl’s way of playing on the acoustic grand piano creates a significantly emotive depth and natural reverb." I agree!

I received the tracks in alphabetical order before the release of the album, so I'm not sure if they are in the correct playing order. All of the titles are one word, only hinting at what they are "about" or what inspired them, leaving it up to each listener to decide. "Alive" begins as almost a whisper - very quiet and fragile - gradually building in spirit and strength, and then returning to the hushed tones of the beginning. "Away" seems very sad and mournful - almost lost. Its slow, steady tempo feels like the passage of time while low bass notes give it a feeling of darkness. "Being" is much brighter and has a kind of musical sparkle that makes me think of light dancing on the surface of water - a favorite! The first part of "Essence" only suggests a melody and a rhythm - very minimal (the definition of "essence"!). The second half is more defined, but is still mostly spare and suggestive. It's a piece with many changes, and is fascinating from the first note to the last. "Flowing" feels much like the movement of a quickly-flowing stream or river and the flashes of color that are reflected in the water - also a favorite. The gentle tenderness expressed in "Lullaby" is so soothing and relaxing that I would recommend it to anyone needing a little help falling asleep. More melodic than most of the other tracks, it's a very sweet massage for the mind and soul. The fluid and graceful "Rare" describes something very special and unique. "Salvage" is also a favorite. For me, the piece expresses a warm inner contentment and peace with its gentle flow and easy-going tempo. Ahhhhh! "Shine," the title track, is freely expressive in a way that is almost conversational with its fluid rhythm and well-chosen notes - beautiful! Delicate and soft-spoken at the beginning, "Unfold" has a wonderful ebb and flow from almost a whisper to a swirl of color and gradually back to a gentle sigh.

Shine is available from Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes and streaming sites such as Spotify and YouTube. It's a beauty!
November 16, 2022
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