Black Sarabande is a collection of eleven short original piano works from Robert Haigh. Some, such as the title track or “Lady Lazarus”, are purist solo piano recordings, while others, like “Strangers On The Lake”, frame the piano in the centre of soft electronic ambience and gentle synthetic and sympathetic accompanying melody elements. Subtle production touches, like the backwards notes in “Wire Horses”, tip this release over into an electronica category, but only just.
The result is always spacious and calm, and sits in conventional piano ballad territory, painting sound pictures that are thoughtful, melancholic, sometimes romantic, but never really energetic.
Highlights include the icy, barren-sounding “Ghosts Of Blacker Dyke” (which was released as a single last year), which feels strongly pitched into soundtrack territory, and the memorable and faintly haunting melody in “Arc Of Crows”. The chord sequence in “Progressive Music” is calling out to be turned into a trance tune, Wim Mertens style.
Over the course of 39 minutes, though, there is a sense that it’s all a little flat. There are only occasional hints of dischord- the unexpected odd synth-strings in “Painted Serpent” feel like a new voice, albeit an oddly dated-sounding one- but overall the drama is limited just to slow introspection and doesn’t successfully progress. This leaves you feeling like you have spent two-thirds of an hour staring at a single painting. A beautiful sound, for sure, but it would have benefitted from braving its way further away from the conventional.