The Emotive Leaf
2015 / Nathan Speir
Disc 1: 44 minutes
Disc 2: 49 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
The Emotive Leaf is pianist/composer Nathan Speir’s sixth album and is scheduled for release on January 5, 2015. The 2-disc set features piano-based ambient chamber music on the first disc and a solo piano re-interpretation of the same pieces plus one on the second. Often very dark and somber, this album takes listeners on an emotional journey that each will interpret somewhat differently. Speir explains: “I look at this album as an emotive novel put to music and summed up on a leaflet, thus the name The Emotive Leaf.” Relating to the experiences that inspired the music: “Even though the essence of those experiences are untouchable, I know that I was able to capture the energies of those experiences into the music because I had to wipe the tears off after performing each piece during the recording.” Deeply personal yet universally understood via the language of music, Speir has created a poignant reminder that even though we have very different life experiences, we all share a similar emotional journey through life.
Disc 1 begins with the title track and features piano and strings (especially cello), drawing the listener in with beauty and grace. “Mindfulness of Your Pain” goes deeper and darker with piano, native flute, and cello creating a hypnotic, atmospheric sound painting. “Ambition” is a haunting and powerful mystery. I really like this version of “A Little Fear,” which begins with a more orchestral sound that gradually becomes a guitar and piano duet with other instrumental effects added here and there. Somewhat lighter than most of the other music, it offers rays of hope. “Tears That Heal” begins in a very dark place, gradually becoming somewhat lighter as healing takes place. Mostly a piano piece, strings and ambient sounds add sonic color to the music. I also really like “Accepting the Medicine.” Very dark and somewhat more dramatic in places, it promises that things will get better (my interpretation). “Telescopic” is the liveliest of the ten pieces, swirling and dancing all over the piano keyboard with background strings trying to keep it grounded. “Dreaming As It Should Be” ends the disc with sunshine breaking through the clouds, offering a fresh start. Piano, strings, guitar, and light percussion end this disc with warmth and renewed optimism.
Although the second disc is a re-interpretation of the same songs, the tone is somewhat different, being solo piano. Quite a bit of it seems more peaceful, but it also seems more vulnerable and stark. I love the way the deep bass of the piano sings in “Ambition,” making a deeply personal statement. “Tears That Heal” beautifully expresses a very raw emotional experience that gradually lightens. I really like the piano version of “Accepting the Medicine,” too, and the raw, personal quality it has - very in-the-moment. “The Bicycle” is a lively piano solo that keeps moving throughout. “Where No Words Can Reach” is perhaps the darkest of the pieces, and I think this is especially true of the solo version - a nightmare set to music. The solo version of “Dreaming As It Should Be” also brings a return to hope and sunshine, ending the disc with warmth and gentleness.
The Emotive Leaf is available for pre-order on Amazon and iTunes and will be released officially on January 5, 2015. Check it out!
December 17, 2014