When I listened to MiddleHill for the first time, it reminded me of the work of Ólafur Arnalds, so seeing him listed as one of the influences of British multi-instrumentalist and composer Edward Cross wasn’t a surprise. What starts as a piano piece recorded on an old, creaky instrument, quickly ends up immersed in a full-blown soundscape that includes strings, electric guitars and woodwind. This results in a mesmerizing neoclassical song that evokes nostalgia, hope and a little bit of sadness. Written and recorded during the first lockdown, MiddleHill will keep us company for years to come.
Korea is a country with a long history of hardships: from Japanese occupation to many wars and losing family members when the country got divided, among other things. Korean people have a word, Han, that has no direct translation to English and is, actually, difficult to explain. It comes from the Chinese Character 恨 (Han) which means resentment, hatred, or regret; but its meaning is much more complex in Korean. It is associated with families that were separated when Korea split and linked to the concept of ‘the beauty of sorrow‘. It is a form of sadness or longing that’s become part of the Korean identity.
American composer David Baron‘s wife is Korean and they often talk about the concept of Han and how it applies to modern life. I mean, the whole world has been in a state of Han since early 2020. All of this inspired David to compose a beautiful waltz-based piano piece that “aims to capture the duality of sadness/hope”. He managed to achieve that astonishingly well because you can definitely perceive beauty and sadness impregnating The Han. It’s a hauntingly charming composition.
With regards to the artist, as an arranger, engineer and producer, David Baron has worked with artists such as Lenny Kravitz, The Lumineers, Shania Twain and Phoebe Bridgers. He’s also successfully scored films, tv shows and ads over the years. Baron releases his solo work on Woking-based UK label Here & Now Recordings, often collaborating with other artists on that label like Donna Lewis.
Alex Urwicz is a classically trained pianist and composer based out of Paris. In 2020, he co-created a label called WUCA Records that specializes in classical and neoclassical music, on which he released his debut EP, Couleurs, earlier this year. In addition to that, Alex has worked a composer, arranger, and producer on films, documentaries and advertising for the past 5 years. He clearly knows a thing or two about making music.
Couleurs consists of four tracks inspired by colors. Ardoise, for example, is the French word for a bluish shade of gray. It is the first song in the EP and also my favorite. You could say this of the four tracks but Ardoise is particularly soaked in sweet nostalgia that will transport you to your childhood or another time that you remember with fondness. It reminded me of the stunning soundtrack of the great movieAmélie (I should write about Yann Tiersen at some point). The bottom line is that Alex Urwicz is a talented composer that you should follow if you like sweet piano-based melodies. You won’t regret it.
For a long time, London-based multi-instrumentalist Jack Beech has been producing music for other artists, but after contracting COVID-19 in January this year, Jack felt the need to create his own music and started writing an EP. That record, called Noctilucent, is available to stream everywhere already and consists of four delicate ambient tracks of different textures. One of them is the eponymous track that we’re adding to our mixtapes today.
The word noctilucent means something that glows or shines at night, and that’s what Jack tried to convey with this song and the whole EP album. Even our darkest times can result in something bright that gives us purpose. An atmospheric ambient song with a beautiful piano melody at its core, Noctilucent takes us on a haunting journey through the most gorgeous landscapes of our imagination. Please do give it a listen because you are not going to regret it.
For most people, buying a house is an important achievement that requires plenty of sacrifices. For Michigan-based artist Mark Swanson, that meant selling all of his instruments (he had been playing music for years). Well, all but his keyboard, which he tried to sell as well but could not find a decent offer for it. A few years later, when Mark felt the itch to play music again, he had to use the only instrument he still had: the keyboard, which not only explains how The Aquaerials started but also his sound. Influenced by artists who should be familiar to regular readers such as Ólafur Arnalds, Max Richter, and Sigur Rós; Mark creates minimalist neoclassical compositions that are simple yet beautiful.
Insomniac’s Respite, the latest single from The Aquaerials, is an instrumental piano piece that was inspired by sleeplessness and a general feeling of anxiety. However, being an instrumental piece, each listener can interpret it in a different way. Composed, recorded, mixed, and mastered by Mark himself in his home studio, Insomniac’s Respite is a delicate track that is as serene as a lullaby. If you want to relax, this is the perfect track for you. Enjoy.