The four tracks on distance mark the end of a year-long project for ioflow, who set about recording a piece of music every day of the 365. As might be expected from an artist at the conclusion of such an undertaking, these piano improvisations are reflective, mournful even, as if Josh Saddler is realising the task that’s been a constant in his life for the past 12 months is ending. They’re brief piece but one can sense the emotion behind the notes, similar in a way to Harold Budd’s more recent solo piano excursions.
On “glimpse”, Saddler carefully picks out each note, nudging gently at the envelope of melody whilst satisfied with the sounds being created. “near” starts brightly, before turning introspective – gradually the tempo slows and the playing takes on a darker, less certain feel; almost as if the player’s had the wind taken out of his sails midway through, or – for some reason – began to lose confidence in his theme, and wondered why he’d started in the way he had. It’s a very effective work, whatever the motivation behind though and it covers a lot of ground in under 2 1/2 minutes. If you’ve read this far without picking a song from the player at the bottom of the page, please do so now – it will make a lot more sense than I ever could writing about this music.
Although ioflow has committed a piece of music to tape (or hard-drive, or whatever) on a daily basis, he’s been choosy about what to set free in public, and has provided mini-installments along the way rather than unleashing a motherlode that would be impossible to navigate sensibly and almost certainly cause the listener to react negatively to such an unedited outpouring. So distance was preceded by waveforms, three months earlier, containing more piano improvisations; these are thoughtful works as well but the character of the pieces are notably different. It’s definitely worth investigating if distance wakes up your curiosity.
ioflow has also released some more rhythmic / glitchy tracks on his bandcamp page, but arguably these are less successful than the solo piano works. It’s not clear if these were recorded in a day, but that might explain the smoothed-off sheen that lacks the soulful depth of the piano improvisations (it would take more time to build and record these tracks and it’s possible that Saddler’s creativity was compromised in the process, in which case it’s understandable). The electronic pieces are enjoyable enough, but don’t stand the comparison with the tracks on distance, or the other piano albums ioflow has released. They are thoughtful, nourishing contemplations and underline the simple power of a creative individual and a piano. (Jeremy Bye)