Rare indeed it is to enjoy the myriad moods engendered by solo piano on a record released by an indie label. The creative mind behind dreampop duo Devics, Dustin O’Halloran, here sees his second collection of hauntingly sparse instrumental music released by Simon Raymonde’s Bella Union.
Having relocated from Silverlake, California to a remote Italian village, O’Halloran seems to have found a kind of isolated and focused peace in which to write thoughtful, fragile and heart-swellingly blissful phrases of piano music hooked on melancholy and tinged with reflection. Piano Solos Vol 2 is at once isolationist, poignant and cinematic.
Two pieces from this record were used in Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, but it’s also possible to imagine scenes to go with these expressive, individualistic opuses. In places it’s as though a butterfly had fluttered lazily through the mid-morning air and O’Halloran had soundtracked its flight, while other moments allude to humankind’s innermost flutterings – of the heart and soul.
Amongst O’Halloran’s inspirations are said to be Debussy, Satie, Chopin and Beethoven, and there are hints of their phrasings and emotions to be heard. But these pieces feel looser, less constrained and not at all contrived, reflecting instead our current era’s approach to music as a mirror on emotion rather than as a device exclusively for storytelling. Nowhere are there dramatic flourishes – instead O’Halloran keeps the record’s mood introspective and largely serene throughout.
But there’s much variation in introspection. Opus 28 is a mildly unsettling, hypnotic piece, while Opus 30 feels like an ode to a loved one gone, not to return. In both cases the result is quite beautiful.
Anyone yet to discover the charms of Devics, a format in which O’Halloran takes on the role of multi-instrumentalist to produce songs with words, is likely to be curious as to what else this man can conjure with the flick of his wrist. Inspired, O’Halloran here presents the piano and the sounds it makes as a window on the soul.