It seems Peter Broderick just can’t help himself – he simply has to be writing music to exist as a person. Since his debut as a singer songwriter, penning the powerfully evocative Home in 2008, Broderick has opened up to film music, writing the Music For… series and recently exploring the themes of Congregation and Confluence. He therefore regards the lumpy title of http://www.itstartshear.com as his second album proper.
The idea is that the album title remains as a keepsake, and that anybody heading to the website will find the lyrics, notes and artwork they want to pair up with the downloads, together with what is effectively an autobiography of each song. Broderick takes this further by including It Starts Hear as a title track, the web address standing as its central refrain. It turns out to be the most emotive advert you could wish to hear, and it feels strange to hear a hyperlink delivered with the sort of gravitas normally reserved for a loving statement, even more so when the closing remark, “I don’t own anything and that’s why I’ll go silent”, points to something rather more troubled.
Yet that’s Broderick all over, bringing emotion to the music that he makes. Just as he did on Home, he presides over the germination of initially simple ideas that wind in to loops, generating forward movement against a wide screen backdrop. The seemingly innocuous title of Colin masks a series of circling chords that taken in isolation could easily have been written by John Adams or Philip Glass. Blue, meanwhile, sounds like one of Pat Metheny‘s early meditative guitar pieces for ECM, the notes tumbling down a waterfall as Broderick sings a song that turns out to be a cover of his father’s own work, the elaboration of a discreet tape recording made while his dad was playing.
The softly beautiful I Am Piano begins with just one note, gradually expanding to something deep and meaningful, while Asleep, a tribute to a friend lost in a kayaking accident, also harnesses some impressive power from its relatively stark beginnings. This is one of many places where the sonic imprint of this album leaves its mark, with Broderick’s long time friend and Erased Tapes label partner Nils Frahm adding some scope to the whispered voices, but knowing to pull back for the loss-filled lyrics before the song builds again.
With The Notes On Fire blows the carefully cultivated mood of intimacy wide open, a risky move towards the end of the album. A joyful exultation, it gets syncopated against a more driving, four to the floor beat. Even the use of the high piano at the end shows how well Broderick and Frahm can use instrumental colour together, but overall the song feels a little misplaced, operating at a far faster tempo than the songs around it.
Yet this is the only question mark over a collection of songs that repeatedly explore intimate emotions while pushing gently at musical boundaries. Broderick is now set to take a break for a short while, and though the sojourn is well earned, you can bet he’ll be back with more remarkable music that continues to soothe, challenge and charm.