Album review

Esbjörn Svensson (solo piano, rec. 2008) – ‘HOME.S’

Esbjörn Svensson – HOME.S

(ACT. ACT9053-2. Album Review by Patrick Hadfield)

HOME.S is Esbjörn Svensson‘s only solo album, released in November more than fourteen years after his untimely death. Svensson’s wife Eva came across the recordings on the hard drive of his computer, and, listening to them with sound engineer Åke Linton, who has worked extensively with the Esbjörn Svensson Trio both live and in the studio, was struck by their quality. “The tracks seemed to follow one another like pearls on a string,” she has said. Svensson had recorded these tracks alone at home – just him and his piano, and his recording equipment, in the last few months of his tragically short life.

There is something very intimate about the recordings. The posthumous e.s.t. releases have a harsh brittleness to them – they’re not always easy to listen to – but HOME.S feels deeply personal, as if Svensson was showing a different side of his music.

Eva believes that the nine pieces were composed rather than improvised at the time of the recordings, though the tracks do have a spontaneous feel to them. Named after the Greek alphabet, Alpha through to Iota, they show an introspective side to his playing that was previously most discernible on e.s.t.’s live performances when he sometimes played unaccompanied solos, some of which can be heard on the e.s.t. albums such as Live in Hamburg and Live in London.

On the whole, the pieces are slow and thoughtful: there’s little showing off in Svenssons’s playing, as if he’s nothing left to prove. Several tracks, such as Alpha and Eta,  feel as much like classical etudes incorporating improvisations, with a Bach-like fugue structure. Zeta has a simple with recurring piano figures that belie its emotional power. Gamma develops into  spiritual, bluesy number.

One can’t know Svensson’s intention around these recordings, but they allow us a glimpse of the artist at ease with himself, playing with no one else listening. With hindsight one cannot help but consider mortality – both his and ours – and think what might have been. But at least we have these tracks to consider for posterity.

Patrick Hadfield lives in Edinburgh, occasionally takes photographs, and sometimes blogs at On the Beat. He is on Mastodon.

LINK: Buy HOME.S (we understand that physical copies of both CDs and vinyl from the first production runs are already scarce)

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