Inspired by a trip from Rio de Janeiro to Valencia through countless other cities, OPW sounds itself like a journey rich in culture, varied of scene and laden with appreciation. It is emotional and thoughtful, yet colourful and celebratory. The first track may lead you into labeling it a ‘piano album’, but there is much encroaching on the stage, deservedly stealing audience eyes from the grand instrument under the spotlight.
Deep autumn is the most fitting time for this release, evoking as it does a sense of change, of letting go and, ultimately, looking forward. Leaves tinged with melancholy drift down to settle on the set as a whole, perhaps most palpable in centrepiece tracks “A Night in Santa Teresa” and “Starchild”. Here pretty yet pensive piano parts are laden with mournful flugelhorn, distant, fractured vocal samples and countless other details both acoustic and electronic. But even in these tracks, the horn solo warms to its theme and eventually grows playful. For those autumnal leaves that represent transience also bring the beauty of their vibrant colours and graceful descent. In their withering there is much for which to be thankful.
Indeed, appreciation and joy are woven through the set, which marks the debut release of Swiss composer Oliver Patrice Weder (now the title makes sense!). Described as a ‘very personal diary’, it represents a musical log of the musician’s travels across the western hemisphere over a two-year period. But to listen to it is not merely virtual tourism, for domestic life continues apace even as traveling seems to hold it in suspense, and in places we seem as voyeur upon familial intimacy. This intimacy is at times tangible ~ from the creaks of the ivories in “Max”, a touching tribute to the composer’s late grandfather written just days after his passing, to the footsteps that chart Weder’s exit from the recording room (and our speakers) at the close of the jazz-infused “Goodbye”. Elsewhere this intimacy is more symbolic ~ “Sol’s Lullaby” is a strangely haunting night-time ballad composed for and played to Weder’s unborn daughter. (It’s worthy of a place in our “Music for Nurseries” list.)
That Weder manages to smoothly juxtapose such pieces with the jazzy EDM of “A Stone’s Throw”, whose plucked double bass line yanks under the spotlight the type of infectious groove that stays in the shadows elsewhere in the set, is to his credit. It underscores that, despite OPW’s overarching wistful air, it is a brisk and hopeful set that bounces from one idea to the next with a finesse unusual in debut releases. I eagerly await Weder’s next journey. (Chris Redfearn-Murray)