Album reviews

Dan Nicholls– ‘Mattering and Meaning’ 

Dan Nicholls Mattering and Meaning 
(We Records. Album review by Tony Dudley-Evans)

Dan Nicholls is one of the finest graduates from the jazz course at Birmingham Conservatoire, and arguably the best ever!  Since graduating he has moved between London, where he became a leading figure in the Loop Collective, and Berlin where he has collaborated, amongst others with Otis Sandsjö in Y-Otis.  He also played keys in the band that Squarepusher formed a few years ago, performing behind a mask along with the rest of the band.

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In this album, Mattering and Meaning, Nicholls returns to the acoustic piano, and in the words of the accompanying notes, he has “spontaneously re-imagined his relationship to the piano”. The result is an album with nine tracks, most of which are between three and four minutes in length; there is one longer track at just over seven minutes and one shorter one at 1.37.

Each track builds a piano solo with a background electronic sound, occasional noises off and, on two tracks, extracts from interviews with authors Ursula Le Guin and Anna Haraway.  Apparently, the piano was recorded on a mobile phone voice recorder, and this plus some sound manipulation creates an unworldly and atmospheric sound.  The pieces develop gradually with subtle changes; I’m tempted to describe them as ‘minimalist’, but that description would fail to capture the interestingly weird sound and the effect of the noises off.

Although the album has the limitations of a largely solo piano work, it is nonetheless an album that I believe will captivate the listener.

Mattering and Meaning is a welcome addition to the excellent We Jazz catalogue.

LINK: Mattering and Meaning at Bandcamp

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