Nocturne: The Piano Album
The best textural work in music springs from – or works in support of – great melodies. Greek composer Vangelis has been at the forefront of great textural synth work with his incredible soundtracks (Blade Runner, Chariots of Fire, 1492: Conquest of Paradise) and non-soundtrack work too.
But for every indelible melody – and we need only read the words Chariots of Fire to have a version of its famous theme seemingly humming itself in our head – there has been the pioneering synth lines that can, at times, mask melody also.
So here Vangelis appears to strip artifice, aiming squarely for art with a piano album of nocturnal moods. There are famous pieces from the movies (the ‘Chariots’ main theme, Blade Runner’s ‘Love Theme’) and reworkings of material from previous studio albums (To The Unknown Man from Spiral). And there are also new works (the piece Longing, for example, is not the track of the same name from Blade Runner).
Now for everything ‘prog-rock’ or overblown about any of Vangelis’ varied arrangements there’s always been moments of tranquility and the piano is so often a feature – but there’s an effortless beauty and grace to pieces like Moonlight Reflections on this album, and Through The Night Mist. These are gorgeous evocations, gentle and calm. Graceful, blissful – but with just enough air and space to leave unanswered questions.
But there’s a sneaky marketing trick going on here if you’re a purist. Is this really ‘a piano album’? No. It’s synth pads. It’s a very processed-sounding piano. There’s no real feel of the pure grand piano. It’s actually, in many ways, no different to the piano-settings used by Vangelis on his albums. So a little marketing spin, a bit of a story…
But that doesn’t matter when hearing this music. It’s about the outcome.
Now, it’s going to come across as funeral-home music to some. To others this might seem the very finest speaks-to-the-soul version of muzak.
I’m here, I guess, to say ‘can’t it be both?’ This is both cheesy-as-fuck and really lovely.
And I’m enjoying it immensely. It’s everything I’d hope for and want from a ‘dialed back’ Vangelis album of midnight moods.
You can support Off The Tracks via PressPatron