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BETWEEN US CH. 1

London, 2019 

Philip Daniel is a very prolific composer; his last two releases—Gradient and This Tree Is Made for Climbing—had exposed a compositional style inspired by continuous music, perpetual rhythms and repetitive structures. However his latest release, and third over the last three years—Between Us Ch. 1—represents a turning point and a musical challenge for the composer. Moving away from an extroverted musical style, Daniel reveals a more intimate side of his musical personality.

 

Minor Venture, the opening piece, is based on a tender miniature melody emphasised by the strings—of Shawn Williams, who provided all the string arrangements of Between Us Ch. 1. Solely based on this little musical structure that evolves and takes turn, the piece portraits the improvisational intention of the album. A Broken Waltz is once more very simply constructed on a small selection of chords, and appears as a crossover between a contemporary Romantic nocturne and a jazz ballad. The string arrangement is once more very textural and adds a colour effect to the piece. Between Us, the title track of the album, is based on a fragile melody that betrays Daniel’s last compositional style of strongly emotional and lyrical pieces. It is both light and dense, and has a major role in the cohesion of the composer’s stylistic evolution—connecting the old with the new. A very short moment in time, Selfoss—for the town in Iceland—sounds like a glimpse into the composer’s new musical world, and perhaps a reflection of his influences. Space for Two, the most rhythmical piece of the album, seems to be based on chordal vamps that Daniel uses to lay his improvisation. It is very interesting how the strings seem nearly invisible, and yet add so much to the quality of the piece—and to some extent the album—and its overall personality. The last track, Love Turn, has a very romantic quality mostly thanks to its tender melody full of lyricism and emotional content that reveals some of the composer’s former musical traits.

 

Knowing Daniel’s last releases, it is admirable to observe the restrain and humbleness that emerges from Between Us Ch. 1. Through a brand new instrument—a stunning 100 year-old upright Steinway—and musical personality, Daniel effectively finds balance in creating an intimate conversation with the listener. Each piece of the album is a delicate musical esquisse that ventures in the world of musical delicacy and airiness. The participation of Shawn Williams allows the music to take a celestial dimension, yet retaining its simplicity and modesty. If it is always a challenge for a composer to experiment a change in musical direction, it is in Daniel’s case a true success and excitement for the curiosity of his listeners.