Sometimes an album hits us exactly where we need it most, at the time when we need it most. Scattered On The Wind is this album. The comfort, brilliance and encouragement of these tracks provides a stairway to the mood we miss. Sophie Hutchings has been honing her craft now for a decade, and while she’s grown in confidence, she’s also managed to preserve the feeling reflected in the title of her debut album: becalmed.
Hutchings doesn’t just play the piano, she flows with the notes. As one can see in the video for “A Small Kind of Revival” (a perfect title for our times), her hands never seem to leave the keys, but to drift along the black and white sea. The line between performer and instrument is as fluid as that between sand and water. As a lover of the Australian coast, she finds peace “in the ocean … or gazing at its horizon.” The lessons of the ocean are abundant in her music: the cyclical nature of tides, the power of the waves that seems so destructive yet smooths stones and glass. In the gorgeously toned “Surrender to the Deepest Blue,” Hutchings becomes the sea, adopting its hue as her own.
The first transcendent moment is also the album’s biggest surprise. In Part II of the title track, a pair of sopranos seep between the notes like salt water between planks, offering their own layers of ripple. At first, Sandra Liu and Josephine Stark catch the attention, but soon after Bree Baxter and Vera Marcu tug the emotions even higher with paired violins, building a jetty above the water. All of these players return later, along with Hutchings’ father Lee on flute and alto flute, a reminder of the connections we cherish with family and friends. Like the ocean, these collaborators serve as reminders of things that are simple, everlasting and true.
Some of the longer tracks hearken back to Hutchings’ bravery on “Seventeen,” the very first piece she unveiled to a larger audience. “Orange Glow,” “Cold Front” and “Rain of Feathers” are reminders that although Hutchings releases singles, she composes tracks that are as long or short as they need to be, their length only determined by their nature. “Cold Front” in one of the LP’s sparser tracks, akin to a deserted seashore visited by gulls. One may wrap a jacket tighter around the chest, but during such times, the shore yields a different type of unmissable beauty.
The liner notes suggest the LP is about “surrendering to the unknown, trusting that things will align.” The album as a whole is a long sigh of relief that such things can be true. And there it is, the closing track, “The Last Sigh.” The song seems like a long-forgotten melody; one imagines lyrics bobbing on its notes like buoys. We’re going to be okay, it whispers, as long as the seas are blue. (Richard Allen)