Originally released on Preservation Records in 2016, Sophie Hutchings‘ Wide Asleep is now enjoying a timely vinyl reissue on Hobbledehoy Records, along with new artwork. In celebration of the event, Sophie shares some reflections on her influences.
Five Artists/ Bands that changed my life:
Rachel’s: Discovering Rachel’s as a young person was mind blowing for me… As the junior of a semi-large musically opinionated family, I was a bit of a musical sponge. I was governed by the sounds of my brothers and my Father between Indie Rock and Jazz. I loved the stimulative atmosphere of it, though I’d never really considered or understood why I wrote music like I did. Often it was only in the company of my bedroom walls. I was pretty introverted about it. When I heard Rachel’s I was so moved. I loved that they were a mix of classical sounds yet with Indie sensibilities. I also liked that they were formed and came from bands I’d already been introduced to by my brothers and their circle of friends like June of 44, Rodan, Shipping News, Sonora Pine etc. I felt an affiliation with this as that felt like my territory too.
The Necks: As a child I would often be distracted whilst practicing. As silly as it may sound, I’d get into this habit of watching my hands play repetitive motifs over and over in the reflection of the piano…. Disciplined practice was frustrating and I found this a calmative. A little hypnotic. I’ve always been a huge fan of repetitive music… This is what drew me to the Necks. I guess because it can take you on a bit of mind-trip and lull your senses.
Their music can come across understated, yet it’s so immeasurable . I love that they break all the rules of tradition. Strangely it’s not emotional territory for me… However it’s the spell they cast. It’s an exploration with out your mind even realising it, where amongst repetition, the dynamics change, tones dip, swell and drift….
Arvo Part: The first time I heard Spiegel im Spiegel it put a massive lump in my throat… I’ve listened to it countless times and there’s not a moment when it still doesn’t raise the same emotive response.
Arvo Part is a true example of introspective music. It’s not how many notes are played but how they are played. It’s also about the space in between. Silence in music speaks…There’s a purity about his music.
Arvo Part’s pieces hang on the edges, yet there’s a restlessness over the quietness that balances the fragility of his music and I guess being a sentimental person you don’t tire of this kind of beauty in music..
Alice Coltrane: My my dad is a autocratic Jazz Head…. So I thought I would never really grow to love Jazz…. I’m extremely close to my Father and he’s been a total mentor in my life with his musical background, so I found when I left home I started pining for the music I grew up listening to! Bill Evans, Miles Davis, John Coltrane Et al… For all that, the Avant Garde territory of Alice Coltrane was a step up. I loved how her music entered other worldly territories with her cascading harp, Choral voices, old Synth layered textures and tribal outlandish percussion. It has this lofty energy about it. It’s soft yet soulful at the same time. It’s dreamlike and euphoric… This was the begining to discovering a whole world of Spiritual and Ethio-Jazz which is one of my favourite cooking and red wine kinda music!
Bohren & Der Club of Gore: Bohren & Der Club of Gore took me into the twilight zone… Their sparse mixture of instrumental jazz and dark ambience have a rare ability to make time and space around you feel vast and infinite. Their brooding slow melodies endow you to listen in a distant fashion whilst it’s mood drips intravenously in and takes over without your knowing.
I love the deliberateness in their approach. They capture a mood that’s almost undefined and forces you and your surroundings to slow down……I love that…
It’s purposely languorous in nature, drenched in mesmerism…….
Since the original release of Wide Asleep (and limited edition companion album Drift), Sophie has gone on to release the album Yonder on Hobbledehoy and its “sleepy sister” Byways on 1631 Recordings. Below we present a slightly modified version of our original review.
When I reviewed Sydney pianist Sophie Hutchings‘ debut album Becalmed in 2010, I remarked that it was incredibly bold to start with an eleven and a half minute track (“Seventeen”, composed when the artist was that age). Now on her fourth release, Hutchings continues to defy expectations, occasionally adding choral-style vocals as texture. One needs a lot of self-confidence in order to do such a thing, but Hutchings has it in spades, having begun her career as a self-taught musician.
Hutchings’ patient release schedule (approximately every other year) continues to produce some of the genre’s best albums. While every other pianist seems to want to be Ólafur Arnalds (see this article), Hutchings is content to blaze her own path, and deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Arnalds & Frahm not because she sounds like them but because she’s that good ~ and has been since the start.
How to identify a Hutchings composition? A measured pace is one, as each track is as long as it needs to be. She’s not searching for singles, but for the best use of space and sound. Her music has always contained a great tenderness and warmth, as the piano seems more an extension of her hands than a separate entity. The notes themselves vary between flurry and filigree, while refusing to follow an A-B-A-B base. The addition of strings enhances these compositions, although a pure piano album would have been lovely to hear as well.
Wide Asleep adds an extra tone, which fellow reviewer James Catchpole identified in his excellent review at Fluid Radio as gothic. One can trace the pedigree of Wide Asleep to Hyperium’s Heavenly Voices compilations and the older output of the Prikosnovenie label: each heavy on fairy tales and dreams. The album is meant to reflect the liminal stage “between sleep and wakefulness”, and does so in magnificent fashion, often receding to a placid state before bursting into color and brightness (for example, at 2:35 of “Falling”). Whenever those choral voices arrive, one thinks of hidden processions, pixie dust, and Nemo in Slumberland. Anything can happen in the subconscious, and the often lilting pace sets the stage for fantastic imaginings. The album itself is like a dream; when one awakens, one remembers scenes and impressions, but not the whole. In this case, one remembers the gentleness, the comfort, the tucking in. No nightmares are here, no anxiety: just the soft comfort of a nightlight and the promise of playful adventures in the land of Nod. (Richard Allen)
Congratulations to Sophie on the new edition and thanks for sharing your personal reflections!