2016 / Greg Ryan
Review by Kathy Parsons
Crossways is the excellent new album from Greg Ryan, a young Welsh composer, pianist, harpist, and music producer. In just the past week at the Independent Music Awards in Los Angeles, Ryan won seven awards including Best Classical Producer and Best Soundtrack Artist as well as a special award for "Artist Of The Year" out of all genres and categories. A self-taught musician, Ryan released his first solo piano album, Scribblings, at the age of 20 in 2010. That album has had sales from more than twenty countries as well as placement in many film and television productions. Four years in the making, Ryan composed the music for Crossways as an exploration of the place of classical music in the modern world. He wanted to stretch limits and make people think, but also wanted to create something beautiful. “As I worked through the long process of writing this album, I started to stumble more and more upon moments of joy and excitement. No matter how deep your cynicisms, music has a way of breaking through reason and rationality and grabbing you with emotion.... To start with thoughts of taking on the world and finish with something far more personal is a testament to the journeys music can take you on.” Ryan performs on piano, synths, and guitar and did the sound design and mixing. Dawn Avery appears on cello, Rosie Bell on violin, and Hayley Ryan on vocals. Grammy-winning Ricky Kej did the mastering, and the whimsical and very effective artwork was created by Sara Lloyd.
Crossways begins with “Diaphanous,” a poignant and elegant piece for piano, violin, cello, and some atmospheric keyboard sounds. At a minute and a half, it serves as a compelling prelude to the other twelve tracks. As its title suggests, “In Motion” is much livelier with more orchestration and a strong sense of urgency - a favorite! “Then We Are” is a gentle ballad that shimmers with a warm, peaceful glow. It reappears later in the album with the cello as the lead voice. “Drifting” suggests the sweet tranquility of a pleasant daydream or of floating on a white puffy cloud. “Resonant Flow” begins with a dark, mysterious drone that leads into an introspective piano melody with quiet keyboard colorations behind it. As the piece evolves, more orchestration and eventually choral voices are added, but the piano is always front and center - a gorgeous and deeply emotional piece. “Evaporate” goes in a much more ambient direction and is perfect in its brevity. “Existence” is a piano solo with a simple, heartfelt quality that is almost hymn-like. The title track is built around a series of interwoven themes of varying intensity, orchestration, and ambience. My favorite track is the delicate, almost fragile “Soft Glow,” a haunting piece for piano and strings - so simple and yet so deeply affecting.
I have a strong feeling that you’re going to be hearing a lot more about Crossways as it reaches more ears and hearts. It is currently available on Bandcamp, and will be more widely available soon. I’ll update the links as the album progresses. Very highly recommended!
April 30, 2016