Uto'pians, Piano Collection Volume 2
Various Artists and Blue Spiral Records
2021 / Blue Spiral Records
Review by Kathy Parsons
Uto'pians, Piano Collection Volume 2 (Volume 1 was released in early 2020 with different artists) is a collection of fourteen piano solos and piano-based compositions by artists from all over the world. The artists were chosen by the curators, Raphaelle Thibaut and Jordane Tumarinson, and part of the profits from the album will be donated to Animals Australia, Australia's leading animal protection organization. The motto on the organization's homepage is "We believe in a world where compassion extends to everyone." What a beautiful thought! Jordane Tumarinson found the word "utopians" for the title of the albums in the series and defines it as "a dreamer who believes in harmony with society and with nature. Also, it is a game of words with pians: piano."
Each of the fourteen tracks on the album is by a different artist. Several are solo piano, but several are a mix of piano and electronics; a couple of tracks are vocal and piano. Some of the pianos are muted or felted to varying degrees and some are not. There is a very interesting variety in the music, from ambient to more melodic to experimental - literally something for (almost) everyone!
Uto'pians begins with a mysterious and very beautiful piece called "Mirage" by Raphaelle Thibaut. It starts out as a flowing (felted) piano solo, adding atmospheric tonal colors and textures about halfway in - magical! "Temporary Shelter From The Storm" by Arthur Jeffes is for piano and electronics with a driving bass beat and energetic percussion. Christopher Dicker's "Optis Nocturne" goes in a more classical direction with a lightly muted piano solo that expresses deep emotion with simplicity and honesty - a favorite! Christina Higham's "Hyperspace" is also a piano solo, but the piano is felted and recorded in such a way that the sounds of the inner workings of the piano became part of the music. The music itself is quite melodic and dreamy. "Inner Sights" by Patrick Delobel makes me think that this is what Erik Satie's music might sound like if he had lived about a hundred years later. The piano sound on this one is very clean and unaltered. Feryanto's "Tree Spirit" is much more experimental with percussive sounds and plucked strings in addition to the piano keys. Midori Hirano's "Keep Shining" is also on the experimental side, but I think all of the instrumentation is piano - possibly layered in some sections. Dark yet beautiful, I can imagine that her music would be very effective in film soundtracks. "Parasol" by Dominique Charpentier is one of the lighter works on the album and feels much like a relaxed walk on a sunny afternoon with a lovely pastel-colored parasol drawing smiles from everyone she meets. The melancholy "Alive" by Oskar Tena reminds me of Ludovico Einaudi with its simplicity and deep emotional expression - also a favorite. The album closes with the only piece on the album with lyrics, "You Are Everything" by Valeska Rautenberg.
Uto'pians, Piano Collection Volume 2 is a fascinating sampler of the work of pianist/composers from many different countries and raises money for a great cause. It is available from Blue Spiral Records, Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes and streaming sites like Spotify. Don't miss it!
April 23, 2021