Part of a Kindly Plan
2017 / Neptic Music
Review by Kathy Parsons
Part of a Kindly Plan is the ninth album from multi-instrumentalist and composer Nathan Speir. An impressive one-man show on this album, Speir composed, mixed and mastered all ten tracks and performed on a baby grand piano, cello, wooden flute, acoustic guitars, “lite” synths, wind chimes, rainstick and singing bowls. He also designed the cover artwork. The album title and the inspiration for some of the music came from a poem by Thomas Hardy called “On A Fine Morning,” which is quoted on the back cover of the CD. Speir refers to this album as “Bright Acoustic Ambient Chamber Music,” an apt title since this is not music that will easily fit into a specific category (a GOOD thing, I think!). The overall feeling of the album is very easy and relaxed. In fact, the music is so soothing that I put it in my wake-up alarm and slept through the entire album! It is music that can easily slip into the background yet is complex enough for focused listening.
Speir started playing the piano at the age of eight and completed his first full composition at twelve. In his teen-age and college years, he spent a lot of time studying and practicing world religions, which broadened his creative and personal perspectives. Speir earned a Bachelor’s Degree in music theory and composition in 2004 from Palm Beach Atlantic University and founded his own label, Neptic Music, in 2016. Originally from Southern California and raised in Florida, Speir currently resides in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Part of a Kindly Plan begins with “Hued Embowment,” an ambient piece for piano, cello, and singing bowls. The piano expresses a sense of freedom as it lightly meanders around the piano. The cello feels “heavier” and more grounded - sometimes plucked and sometimes bowed. The bowls are used sparingly, but provide an effective contrast to the other two instruments. “As We Turn” refers to how our outlook on life changes as we grow older. Mostly a duet for steel-string guitar and piano, rainstick, sampled tympani and synth strings add tonal color and rhythm. “Good Seasons” is relaxed and informal with acoustic guitar in the forefront and atmospheric background instrumentation - very simple, yet very expressive. “A Taste of Solace” returns to the piano, acoustic guitar and enough reverb to give it a very spatial quality - so peaceful! “Open Ranges” is a little different, adding harmonica to the piano lead and suggesting vast open space and timelessness. “Serenity In This House” is very open and spare - much more ambient than melodic - with piano, nylon-string guitar, wind chimes, as well as a few other sounds from around Speir’s house. This piece is indeed very serene! Speir says that the title for “Familiar Orbits” refers to many things - “astronomical bodies going around a star, the molecular energy within us and around us, and the regular pathways we follow in life.” Performed on piano, synth string drone, cello and singing bowls, the music expresses comfortable feelings of floating freely as in a dream or dream-state. “Breathing On the Shore” (piano, singing bowls, ethereal sounds, and strings) continues that dreamy, floating feeling. With its 62 beats per minute tempo, the pace matches “slow, regular breathing, perhaps during meditation on a beach.” At just under nine minutes, the hypnotic ebb and flow of the music gently releases any stress or tension you might be experiencing, and brings the album to a quiet and calming close.
I have enjoyed the other albums I’ve reviewed for Nathan Speir, but this is my favorite so far. It is available from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Recommended!
May 11, 2017