BRITISH pianist Neil Cowley, who released a septet of albums sitting astride the point where jazz begins to shade into modern composition and tronica over a period of ten years from 2006, has been on something of a musical journey.
His previous combo, the Neil Cowley Trio, climaxed in the piano and tronica-led excellence of 2016’s album Spacebound Apes, which includes melodies of swell and grace such as “Weightless”.
But he’d seemingly fallen out of love with the piano – or it him. He felt he had to maybe depart from the stool to find a new medium of expression.
He relocated to Berlin, began a collaboration with Erased Tapes man Ben Lukas Boysen, resulting in last year’s digital-only Beat Infinitum EP; a remix EP; even a one-hour mix for Ninja Tune’s legendary Solid Steel radio show, which took in The Prisoner, Bowie and Can. There was such a curve of creativity into the electronic. The controls were set ever outwards.
But was this wasn’t quite how Neil felt. He yearned for the ivories. One day he found himself back at the piano in Berlin; and the result is his first album just as plain Neil Cowley, a return to that interrelationship and exploration of many decades, entitled Hall Of Mirrors.
He’s just dropped a lovely come-hither for the album, which is due in March: “She Lives In Golden Sands.” Take a listen.
You’ll find piano beauty, always a forte of Neil’s, transposed through a very Berlin sonic purity: evocative melodicism, ghosts of electronica texture folded through; deeper blurs of tone, backwards processing, just a nuance of glitch, to bring out the essential flavours.
It sits right at the forefront of modern piano work, absolutely seduced by the instrument without ever descending towards the bland, pushing the beauty of the sonics; in this he sits alongside other compositeurs du jour such as Henrik Lindstrand.
As Neil so acutely observes: “Music never knows how wonderful it is until it falls into the ear of the listener.”
Neil’s also due to premiere a short film featuring four tracks from the album on November 26th; keep ’em peeled here at Backseat Mafia.
Neil Cowley’s Hall Of Mirrors will be released on digital download and double vinyl on March 5th; both are available to pre-save and pre-order now.