Album Reviews

James Heather – Invisible Forces

(Ahead Of Our Time) UK release date: 22 April 2022

A deliberately minimal affair of moody piano improvisations follows up Stories From Far Away On Piano

James Heather - Invisible Forces In a cultural landscape less homogenous than in previous decades, where art is intensely vulnerable to changing standards and general subjectivity, one question becomes ever more pertinent when assessing it: does the project succeed on its own terms? There are listeners for every niche, and these niches can be catered to by increasingly sophisticated algorithms, and so when James Heather releases a record of moody piano improvisations we can trust that scores of piano music lovers will have their hunger well and truly satiated.

Invisible Forces, billed as a work “about becoming aware of invisible forces around us to help deepen understanding of self and our connection to the world”, draws on several techniques that overlap and mesh in a way that sometimes renders track distinctions redundant. Chords are broken up into two elements, alternated in a rocking motion – the rhythm created is loose and free-flowing, though subtly intricate as inversions shift and a resultant melody is formed. Ostinatos are created using scalic and arpeggiac ideas, which can put the compositions on a fixed grid when they are deployed. The ascending bass and dotted quavers of In Your Spirit pop up again on Forgotten Cities, the latter featuring a dynamic build and more of that rocking motion, while the previous track Ultraviolet serves as a brief prelude.

Balance intersperses its chords with ponderous pauses, while the title track attempts a bluesy, episodic approach but comes across as clumsy compared to the other more focused excursions. Immortal Beloved closes the album with a gentler sound as sweet four-note motifs in the left hand lay the foundations, accompanied by insistent octaves in the right-hand to increase the emotional heft. Invisible Forces is a deliberately minimal affair, as even formal notation is eschewed in favour of an intuitive musical journey, and if this makes the album repetitive it will surely still be put on repeat by fans of this sort of thing.

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James Heather – Invisible Forces