Anna Salzmann & Garreth Broke ~ Healing + Hiding (Reworks)

Valentine’s Day is the perfect day to cover an album by a couple.  Healing, from abstract painter Anna Salzmann and pianist Garreth Broke, is a pairing of eleven paintings and pieces, a doubling of miniatures.  Hiding (Reworks) is a half-dozen re-imaginings of the track of the same name.  All told, the total – including Anna and Gareth – is eighteen couples.  For those who want more, the love continues with sheet music, an art book and a print.

Let’s start with a look at the cover painting, titled “Heart.Map.”  The heart is not full, and depending on one’s perspective is either dissipating or forming.  The red seems pure, while the black seems like pollution.  On Valentine’s Day, many broken-hearted people wear black.

According to Broke – whose name is an unusual coincidence – the process of shared creation brought he and his partner closer together, and helped them to heal.  In order to pair the image with “Heart (Map) – Cracks,” one must skip to the center of the album, the point just prior to the healing.  The tempo is sweet, the right and left hands in conversation, drawing closer to each other as the song progresses, each taking time to listen to each other.  The tone sounds inquisitive: where do we go from here?  Short phrases fall like flutters, or tentative thoughts.  And while the end of this piece will be repeated at the beginning of the next, let’s rewind to trace the journey traveled so far.

A brief yet patient intro leads to “Hiding,” then to a plethora of emotions.  Hiding is what one does when hurt; other animals do this, and so do we.  We turn inward, wondering if this will help us to regain our strength, or simply attempting to protect ourselves from further pain.  The track opens up as it progresses, but then slows down, as if the small energy expended was too much. The suite will proceed through “Hidden Agenda” to “Process” and “Lost,” like wandering in a cornfield as the sun is setting, not knowing where the exit is.  A swift segment in “Hidden Agenda” seems resolute, but again the feeling passes, mimicking the cruel reality of recovery.

We pass again through the central heart and on to the title track, which speeds to a happy pace, as if liberated.  This time, the mood seems to stick.  One suspects that this piece reflects the moment in which two people recognize each other as kindred spirits; although they know that difficult times may still lie ahead, they realize that they will no longer be alone.  This is followed by a period of quiet reflection – can this possibly be true? – and finally to an upbeat, open-ended conclusion.

And now we fast-forward four years, to Hiding (Reworks), which operates as another series of metaphors.  Over the years, the track kept maturing in concert, taking on new forms.  In order to prosper, couples must also live in a state of reassessment and recreation.  Adding new facets to a relationship – weather insights or experiences – helps to keep it fresh.  One may even be inspired while revisiting a painful period and seeing how far one has come since then.  While the original “Hiding” turned inward, today it blossoms.

Fittingly, Broke begins the set with his own rework: still slow, but more reflective than caught in the moment.  It’s easier to replay a difficult past when living in a more grounded present.  While short, it’s still longer, as if Broke has the inclination to tumble the experience in his hands and to view it from different angles.  Then he invites his friends to do the same thing.

Given the nature of the core release, it’s surprising to hear the nature of Josh Seman’s rework: first ambient, then electronic, altogether triumphant.  A breakdown serves as a reminder of the initial inertia, but even this is balanced by handclaps.  When paired with the surging reprise, the track nearly quadruples in length.  Clariloops adds clarinet and loops, perhaps self-explanatory given Ruby Lulham’s chosen moniker, focusing on the central melody, turning mourning into spring.

The reworks conclude with another pairing of pairings: Vargkvint and Jakob Lindhagen add lush instrumentation and wordless vocals, and then Salzmann reenters the mix by contributing lyrics, sung by Vargkvint over Broke’s solo piano.  The music comes full circle, with a major difference: the solo pianist is no longer solo.

To all of our readers this Valentine’s Day: may you find love, whether it be the love of a partner, family, friends, a higher power, or within yourself; and may this love lead you from hiding to healing.  (Richard Allen)

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