We first encountered Michael Price in late 2012 when reviewing his first solo EP. To recap: Price is a soundtrack composer with a startling body of work under his belt, all of which he has accrued since first being involved in a major film production in 1997, as co-producer on Event Horizon. Whether arranging, editing or scoring, Price has contributed to The Lord of the Rings, Children of Men and Band of Brothers, among many others. Our own Richard expressed hope that a full-length debut would be coming and, over two years later, his wish is now fulfilled. Not only is Entanglement a great achievement, completing Price’s metamorphosis to fully fledged artist, it’s also likely to be one of the vital releases of 2015 – a thoroughly contemporary record shrouded in the fine dust of former times.
‘I wanted to make an album that sounded like a dark, Berlin record store discovery from the 30s. Something that had timeless emotive power, and pre-digital rawness. Something that I hope would make a deeper connection in superficially networked times.’
Like crackling leaves in a stern breeze, listeners will be powerless to resist the drama that unfolds across and within this record’s nine pieces. Cinematic intensity is found throughout but, now untethered from the constraints of the soundtrack form, Price is able to transport us to a dazzling variety of settings far beyond the scope of a single film (bar Cloud Atlas, perhaps). We may start in a German record store, but are quickly swept away to – not just different settings, but presentations of settings. “Easter” sounds like nature awakening from long slumber, but the scattering of gentle yet hurried piano notes in its first two minutes further gives the impression of watching trees budding and birds rejoicing on a time-lapse video. Likewise, the orchestral middle movement of “Little Warm Thing” is so rich that it must surely be accompanying a dramatic scene from a silent movie, while “Maitri”, with its female soprano shattering the comfort developed in the first minute, immerses us amidst the spectacle of a grand opera.
Whether deliberate or not, these suggestions of different art forms as well as settings imbue the record with great depth, making one consider the creation of art as well as the art itself. And it was through the processes of capturing his music as well as the music itself that Price sought to deliver a work of honesty, which he sees as an artist’s ‘duty’. This meant a recording approach focused on spontaneity and simplicity – single takes of the orchestra with vintage equipment and nothing to guide but human interaction. ‘[Just] the sound of musicians hearing, connecting and responding.’
That’s not to say that Price has eschewed modernity. Pieces such as “Budapest” revel in the combination of sweet violin lines soaring above a prowling, gnarly synth, both of which emerge after manipulated recordings captured on the streets of the titular city – by Price’s mobile phone. The spontaneity extends beyond the studio. The interlude “Digital Birds” mimics the final cry of the opera singer on the preceding track with an avian-like echo composed, as the title informs, digitally rather than organically. The decay employed makes the receding cries sound like waves breaking – brief respite for much-tugged heartstrings.
The main triumph of Entanglement is the breadth of its emotional resonance. In quieter moments, such as gently piano-led “The Uncertainty Principle”, a backdrop of oh-so-quietly shrieking strings emerges to cast a diaphanous pall of tension over the calm. The closer, “Entanglement”, weaves sundry threads of conflicting feelings throughout its orchestrated tapestry – leaving one to wonder, What turbulence was playing out before Price upon its composition? And while on the whole the chamber sections are dynamic and fleeting, when a melody is laboured on, as in majestic album centrepiece “The Attachment”, the intertwining counter melodies burrow themselves deeper and deeper towards the core with each spiralling, aching repetition.
Entanglement is at once honest and mysterious, contemporary and timeless, beautiful and heartbreaking. It may not be a soundtrack, but whatever it soundtracks in your life will be all the richer for its company. (Chris Redfearn)
Release date: 13 April