The British pianist and composer Rowan Hudson returns to the solo world with his latest release Whalebed. After two very interesting projects with Passing Ships, the musician, who is this time on his own at the keyboard, presents a selection of wonderful intriguing pieces, full of images and suggestions.
“Alpine ’53” makes an initial statement; there is always an impressionist flair to Hudson’s music and with Whalebed too, however it seems, and this will be confirmed later, that the music is this time more mechanical — in all its goodness — and minimalistic too. For instance, “Gulf of Riga”, reminds of Crane’s approach to intentional sound and intentional space, it also displays interesting choices of harmony. “Dialogue” is indeed a busy call and response between two registers of the piano, in an almost hectic pace and constant harmonic ambiguity, creating tension until the ultimate resolution. “Images” returns to dreamy textures and suggestions, and alternates with pianistic patterns suggestive of natural flows and movements. “Breton” follows on the dreamy miniature, while “Washington Monument” brings the pace up, although giving a sense of absence of movement and verticality — as if the music was jumping on its own and rather than evolving horizontally—, building up and up. Whalebed is rich in references and clin-d’oeils; such as with “Emahoy” — and its repeated passing notes and chromaticisms, giving it a swing flair and drawing a thin line between impressionism and jazz — or “Triangle” — which has this time an Asian flair and a very impromptu quality which almost seems like a musical sketch. “Whalebed”, is a miniature suite and the longest piece of the album, working in Glass-esque episodes. Finally, “Snowcaps”, sends the listener back to some of the more modern and minimalist pieces of the beginning, retaining some of the episodic structures of the early parts.
Whalebed is not only a very enjoyable album, it is also a very interesting release, which shows how Hudson’s style has beautifully evolved into something at times less obvious perhaps — if there had ever been anything negative to be said about the clarity of the influences of the composer for his past releases — and definitely shaping the musical personality of its creator. It is also really good music, quite frankly, and deserves to be enjoyed for what it is only, and listened many, many times!