Tag: Piano Ambient

Nhor – Wildflowers: Winter – Review on the Periphery

Artist: Nhor
Album: Wildflowers: Winter
Release date: 1 December 2017
Label: Self-released

01. Bereft
02. Murmurations Above Me
03. Owls Through Snowfall
04. Wreaths of Hoarfrost
05. The Moon Belongs To All and None
06. The Leave No Trace
07. Mercy

“I now come to think of Autumn as a knife that was thrust into Summer,” Nhor says about the cold months creeping upon him. Indeed, the holiday season often seems detached from the underlying significance of the winter, something English artist Nhor has set out to rectify with the final release in his season-themed piano ambient EP cycle called Wildflowers. His skeletal arrangements filter out the shopping blitzes and overpriced decor, allowing Winter to epitomize the shrouding of the past in an enveloping sheet of white.

The spacious notes beginning “Bereft” take shape into a dreary depiction of a landscape suddenly monochromatized. Fall’s mad dash of preparation comes to an end, leaving frigid silence in its wake. The song’s dynamic swells and perfect sound panning creates a lens of muffled solitude by which to view the crystallized snow statuettes winter brings in its wake.

Though destructive blizzards may come to mind when thinking of this time, Nhor spotlights quiet dialogues the season harbors for those who listen. Embellished by wandering leads, the swirling modulations and uplifting chimes of “Murmurations Above Me” evoke sweeping flurries reverting natural changes, as though they never occurred.

What happened before temperatures dropped? Who can tell just by looking at a snow bank? As “They Leave no Trace” illustrates with its drifting melancholy and passionate melody, the true nature of the world becomes blurred in its hibernation. Those without resilience retreat to whatever warmth they can find as Nhor’s intimate drama depicts natures impervious dis-invitation to all but the most resilient. Of course, this frosty blight hardly drives out all life.

“Owls Through Snowfall” uses staggered arpeggiations and volume jumps to eloquently depict its namesake, proving yet again the seemingly boundless musicality Nhor brings to his compositions. While artists like Goldmund have a more phonetically complex take on piano ambient, few artists embody the term “a lot with a little” to Nhor’s degree. Winter shows no cracks in the glass castle of perfectly-placed chords and moving lines, providing exactly what is needed and allowing emotion to carry it.

Nhor’s ability to direct the listener’s attention to overlooked occurrences over seasonal phenomena never ceases to amaze, and “Wreaths of Hoarfrost” brings new light to his attention to detail. A stark melodic line gives the perfect soundtrack to one of this season’s most beautiful byproducts, woven into light-treading chords. “The space between notes has become so fragile,” Nhor says, in conscious protection of the fragile artwork created by freezing temperatures. In the midst of these new elements, a familiar character also shifts.

It came as a comforting voice in the heavens, then became the envy of the night and the forbearer of coming darkness, now “The Moon Belongs to All and None.” A balladic lament to the absent heavenly body, this fleeting hymn emphasizes the loss of vibrancy and vitality winter represents to places not pacified with Christmas lights and veracious consumerism. The moon’s presence remains, but perception of the silvery celestite is beholden to no one. “Will the whole Earth slip away into a cold, lifeless end,” Nhor wonders. “Or is there something more beyond that veil?”

Will the whole Earth slip away into a cold, lifeless end, or is there something more beyond that veil?

The bleak overtones accompanying winter are consistently perceived throughout this EP, but the concluding track “Mercy” cleverly concludes the EP by hinting at Spring with its start-stoppy rhythm, thoughtful use of silence and inconspicuously added voices. The blanquette of winter is revealed to be but the passing of a year, and the coming of spring will see a world reborn into the next cycle.

As the EP, and Wildflowers, comes to a close, its true significance manifests. Seasonal changes become a compassionate cornerstone even as they continually uproot. When seen from the broad perspective Nhor stakes out within his minimal homestead of piano soliloquies, Wildflowers provokes a newfound sense of wonder towards the seasons. “I would flood the starlit forests with my song,” Nhor says, reaffirming the maps to placidity his musical explorations draw.

Written by: Maxwell Heilman

Nhor – Wildflowers: Autumn – Review on the Periphery

Artist: Nhor
Album: Wildflowers: Autumn
Release date: 10 October 2017
Label: Prophecy

01. Where They Once Were
02. The Trees Knew Not of Me Then
03. Moonfall
04. We Set Their Bodies Free in the Cold River
05. What We Hid in the Night
06. Fire Promises Guidance
07. Fate

After establishing himself in atmospheric black metal and ambient folk circles, the UK-based multi-instrumentalist Nhor has most recently embraced a unique strand of stripped-down piano ambient music. Over the past six months, he has released two installments of Wildflowers, a quadrilogy of EPs themed after the seasons. Spring and Summer provided intimate explorations of the warmer seasons, a time of rebirth and one of plenty, but Autumn comes as a quiet overture to a period of gradual wilting and panicked preparation with retrospective undercurrents.

Live production, repetitious playing, and modulative fluidity remain central to Nhor’s approach. Within this formula, “Where They Once Were” and “The Trees Knew Not of Me Then” start Autumn strong with two of the cycle’s most dense compositions so far. The former’s tasteful use of octaves skyrockets the dynamism of a trickling moving line, while the latter’s spiraling melody and rushing feel mirrors a blustery October afternoon — all the while maintaining intimate immediacy. Nhor sounds like he’s playing his piano right beside the listener, allowing the instrument’s resonance to overflow to the last echoing tone.

“When the first leaves begin to fall,” Nhor reminisces about autumn, “I am abruptly reminded of everything that I wished to achieve.” With the vibrant colors and spurt of ecological and meteorological activity comes the inevitable realization that the lull of summer is not only temporary, but never long enough. He explores this annual epiphany through his minimalist vein, through the polarized low-end arpeggiations and cutting chimes of “We Set Their Bodies Free in the Cold River.”

The waters and winds of time can suddenly feel like flash floods and gales as life hurtles towards finale, but Autumn still evokes moments of clarity as each note constructs a peaceful head-space in the midst of terrifying change. As the nebulous broken chords at the start of “What We Hid in the Night” take form, stoic understanding coincides with tragic realization.

Imparting the heavenly oracle’s third appearance in Wildflowers, “Moonfall” serves as a reminder that the world’s constant shifts never completely shroud the moon as an unmoving sounding board for both Nhor and the listener. The song’s use of silence and note decay make it the most atmospheric track on Autumn, while its basis in high register further separates it from other cuts — emphasizing Nhor’s ability to compose distinct auras by gradually dealing his hand from song to song.

Autumn confronts fall as an abrupt reminder of the transient nature of the good times summer provides, but Nhor’s thoughts are never hopeless. “As the warmth of our star retreats, I am drawn closer to the fire,” he says. The passionate “Fire Promises Guidance” encapsulates this enduring comfort, as its crestfallen melody imparts somber apprehension through several movements that encompass the entirety of his emotional and sonic palette. With Nhor’s tearful farewell to the jubilation summer brought comes a decision to preserve warmth as winter creeps over the horizon, in the knowledge that coming hardships will fade as surely as good times. The polyphonic concluding track “Fate” comes as a whimsical ode to the inevitability of these cyclical changes, a call to live in spite of them instead of wallowing when they come.

At 23 minutes, this is the longest and most dense Wildflowers EP so far. Using stark minimalism and extreme simplicity, Nhor has again created a cohesive narrative unique to the season in question. Autumn blows with crimson leaves towards a snowy blight, pacifying the maddening race to prepare for winter through its gentle chords.

Written by: Maxwell Heilman

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