It is probably due to mundane issues such as cost and logistics, but there aren’t enough piano-centric albums being made at the moment. Of course, one of the reasons might be that not enough people are playing the piano, which has maybe gone out of fashion a little. Having been the staple instrument in people’s houses for several generations, where families and friends would gather round for a song, pianos are now gathering dust in the corner of rooms, or perhaps getting immolated for art projects. The singalongs died with the rise of the 7” single, the hit radio station and the jukebox, and pianos are too bulky to be of much use to folk singers and buskers who make the most of the more portable acoustic guitar. Plus, if you can play a keyboard, there’s a whole universe of sounds ready to be created through a synth.
Thankfully, there are still some artists out there willing and able to make an album based around their piano, and Norwegian musician A Veil of Water‘s debut album Reminder is the best I’ve heard since Matthew Bourne’s Montauk Variations last year. The compositions on Reminder are restrained, without a note out of place or a chord struck in anger; it’s very much music to soothe the savage breast for the majority of the tracks here. That’s not to say A Veil of Water lacks variety or just sticks to the black and white notes; delicate drones of guitar colour a few tracks with added atmospherics, and “Retrouvailles” takes a surprising turn, nodding to Rachel’s in its use of dynamics.
Many in the opening sequence of tracks rely on spacious chords underpinning the wheeling patterns or fragile melodies carved out by the right hand, which create lovely tones that aren’t too adventurous but are wonderfully impressionistic. It’s only on tracks in the second half of the album that Rune Trelvik nudges at the boundaries, with moments that catch the listener off guard and some elements of post-rock thrown in for good measure, such as “Vanishing Stars” which sounds like the second coming of Hope of the States – except instrumental and all played by the one man. As with the Bourne album, Reminder shows how versatile a piano can be; sometimes stately, sometimes calm, other times angry and passionate. This is, after all, an instrument that both Erik Satie and Jerry Lee Lewis played – we might be in danger of forgetting that, as our piano gathers dust in the corner like an oddly-shaped mantlepiece. So thanks be to A Veil of Water for reminding us. (Jeremy Bye)