Stories From A Far Away Piano AHEAD OF OUR TIME. CD/DL/LP
Debut long-player from thoughtful ambient pianist, on Coldcut’s label. Recorded in Peckham, but with a global brief, James Heather’s abstract solo piano works are inspired by international news stories – from jihadist interventions to air disasters. Occupying a similar ground to the cerebral but accessible études of Max Richter and Nils Frahm, his pieces are brief, full of space and punctuated with poignantly melancholy – but never overly sombre – melodic figures. Thus, Empire Sounds recalls some of Richter’s more emotionally raw keyboard works, only with an added jazzy undertow, while the initially spare MHope summons the ineffable nostalgia of prime Harold Budd before blossoming into a dreamy meditation worthy of Virginia Astley’s From Gardens Where We Feel Secure, then darkens again. Not everything convinces – opener Ruquia is really just a circling motif that goes nowhere in particular – but, for the most part, Heather’s compositions are subtle evocations that reward repeated listening.