Music Reviews

Artist: Thomas William Hill
Title: Grains Of Space
Format: 12" vinyl + CD
Label: Village Green Recordings
UK-based multi-instrumentalist Thomas William Hill’s second album on Village Green Recordings began its life as a series of improvised minimal loops made with just a viola da gamba and a loop pedal. However the urge to ‘join the dots’, as Hill puts it, and compose into the space between the existing notes, turned this project into something much more ambitious and epic, in which Hill layers up a selection of his own diverse instrumentation (Tibetan singing bowls, African kalimbas, metal tongue drums as beyond), as well as introducing other musicians that add elements such as violin, trumpet, double bass and harp into the mix on certain tracks. The result is a fully fledged symphonic affair with a distinctly classical sound, often extremely traditional-sounding, but with the original electronic looping and repetition underpinning proceedings in a subtle yet complex way.

There’s a consistency to it which makes it feel like one single 46-minute work, potentially mislabellable as a soundtrack album, so selecting highlights seems arbitrary. However notable parts include the understated and emotive “Furnace”, with its simple but powerful piano backbone, the oddly danceable “Refract”, and the lyrical positivity that infuses “Tongue” that pulls up its slightly sorrowful-sounding string arrangements. The steady everyday pace of “Willow” feels like a musical portrait of modern routine, evoking thoughts of daily commuting and yearning for holidays.

The building tension inherent in “Flock” certainly has a ‘prelude to final battle’ feel to it, while final piece “Whorl” starts out with an extremely Glass-like pattern of string arpeggios that gradually flows into more open melodic waters, implying a musical freedom which is briefly threatened by glitchy noise atmospheres.

It’s an extremely impressive output, and a strong indicator of classical music’s healthy ability to retain its form but adapt to the pulses and processes of modern life. It’s beautiful work.

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