‘Thank you for coming to listen to my sad piano music,’ says Simeon Walker to the crowd sat on the floor in front of him and his keyboard. It’s the term he uses for his particular style of music, poking some fun at the vague genre of ‘pianist and composer’ that gets applied indiscriminately to all manner of contemporary pianists from Nils Frahm to Ludovico Einaudi, never really giving justice to any of their works.
So is it as sad as Simeon makes it sound? His music is something a little more complex than sad, particularly in his pieces from his new second album ‘Mono’ (available here as an exclusive album stream). ‘Hush’ and ‘Drift’ from this album are the pieces that ring out truest in the room. A set of compositions from last winter 2016/17, recorded in his house, the album invites listeners to ‘hunker down and hibernate away from the stresses of the world’. ‘Mono’, then, isn’t so much sad piano music; it’s more an album that captivates the solitude found in meditation from emotion, the recuperation of the spirit, rebuilding emotion on a fresh canvas. Listening to ‘Mono’ is remembering to breathe again.
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Simeon Walker’s show at London is one from a set of tour dates this winter, many of them in secret locations with Sofar Sounds (if you’re not familiar with Sofar gigs, or ‘Songs in a Room’, they’re a unique worldwide platform supporting secret shows held in unique venues, anywhere from someone’s living room to an antique shop). The choice of Sofar for his venues – an intimate huddle of people who won’t necessarily know your music at all but who are always willing to hear something new, combined with the secrecy of venue and artists until the day before – offers a wonderful warmth to his shows. There’s some limitations to this set up – being equipped only with an amp and a keyboard, he can’t emulate the same piano-creaking warmth and breadth of sound that’s so homely on ‘Mono’. But, in turn, it allows for different sounds: the warmth and quiet of a room of strangers, the odd passing steps, the click of a camera. Simeon Walker’s ‘sad piano music’, then, is less about fixed production and performance, but about a sense of ephemeral impermanence: the reminder that everything is temporary, music and emotion alike, and winter will pass again.