Andrew Lang – Burnt Shades (Whitelabrecs, 2016)


Solo piano recordings are immensely satisfying to me, but they’re tricky to get right. So many of them have been produced over the years that standing out is an increasingly difficult notion, so when a nice 30 minute record like¬†Burnt Shades¬†comes along it’s tremendously refreshing. Performed at home on an old piano, we’re taken through a polite collection of honest and minimalist tracks that speak with a charming elegance in their respective slots.

As reflected in the pastel twilight hues of the artwork, “Sun Comes Down” opens the LP in luxuriously slow and measured strokes that float earnestly out of the encroaching night air, tentative in their introductory finality, spurring on the hours of quiet contemplation in its delicate intimacy. Thusly the mind begins to churn in “Foam”, the keys suddenly finding themselves full of life and rolling along in a satisfying stream of continuous, idiosyncratic notes. It’s deliciously simple and light, carefully amping itself up to an insistent and glittery crescendo at its softly boiling peak, fingers dancing to the tune of our thoughts before it careens to a halt, the rapids interrupted and flattened into a glossy sheen.

Inevitably we find ourselves plumbing deeper given our introspective allowance, with “Funeral March” taking a predictably slow and tired approach, its homely creakings committed to tape with an appreciative comfort. Head bowed and melancholic, it’s the lowest point of our thoughts, slipping into the crystalline movements of “Forest of Glass” and all its haunting fragility. Proceeding with a lonely caution it wanders through the modern world askance, flesh migrating through the unfamiliar labyrinthe of modernity: its facades of steel and glass, its cold precision and towering impositions.

Life finds a way through it all somehow though, and “Daze” reappears as a redux of “Foam”, sandwiching the interior melancholy and angst with brighter passages, locking them away for safety. It’s bright, bouncy and full of life; it doesn’t quite possess the continuum of sound of its sibling but its short stint of energy is certainly enough to bring us back into the light ready for closer “For”. Genteel and reflective it captures the precious contemplative moments snatched before sleep’s unconscious processings, its ethereal airs vignetted with a slight hint of wist, ivories singing with a faint sense of unrealised yearning before we disappear over the horizon of knowing.