Brighter Days is Nathan Speir's third release. This instrumental album features piano, synths, percussion, and phonetic vocals. It's a metaphorical sound track that weaves in and out of ambient soundscapes and colorful piano based compositions.
"New Horizons" begins with quick and loose ascending arpeggios simulating the dawn of a new day. "The Fresh Air" is a feel-good track that may be considered a genre crossing song with its lite jazz improvisational bridges. The title track "Brighter Days" and later track "Refraction" are compositions for two pianos, of which both parts were simultaneously recorded by Nathan. Rich in electronic textures and featuring field recorded samples, "Early Spring" and "Surreal Afternoon" are the most ambient in nature and contribute another dimension to the album. In "Your Smile", Nathan has bravely embraced the option of his own vocals in three part harmony and counterpart. After a brief and slightly uptempo denouement, "Keeping Time" leads the listener to the close of a beautiful day with plenty to appreciate.........in the spacious "Cusp of Twilight".
California-born and based in North Carolina, Nathan Speir adds another dimension to contemporary instrumental piano music with colorful ambient sound-scapes and genre-bending, new age, classical, and jazz idioms. Brighter Days is a fourteen-track release that incorporates solo piano with synth, percussion, and fluid musical melodies that are serene and contemplative throughout.
“New Horizons” opens with a delicate, sweeping piano melody that echoes with cheery luminosity that is broken up by a few metallic bell sounds. Atmospheric washes of noise fill the background with vibrant soul and a multi-layered sound with thick textures. The ambient washes decrease, as the piano sounds flutter wildly. The soft piano tones are relatively reserved with a minimal musical range, as many of the notes are repeated for a dreamy effect. The lack of much variation is not particularly off-putting. At any rate, the song is a fitting introduction to the rest of the album.
“The Fresh Air” opens with a fluid, metallic bell sound that persists with some background percussion and flute-like, synth noises. The airy flute cuts out, as the light, jazz-focused percussion fills in the remaining sounds. The piano also appears to add some texture to the song. This is a fairly textured song with piano, percussion, synth flutes, metallic bells, and atmospheric washes. The crystalline and metallic bells permeate the song with fluid music that is never too ho-hum. In fact, the flute stylings and harmonious array of sounds near the end of the song provides an energetic listening experience.
“Quiet Hours” begins with a clang of a bell and a faint hint of muted percussion sounds. There is little in the way of additional instrumentation. The muted crystalline tones resemble East Asian gongs to a point and the whole set-up is rather rudimentary and avant-garde. The instrumental tune is only two-minutes long without additional piano sounds. The end of the song features cymbal-like sounds.
“Remission” opens with a soft, piano melody without much additional instrumentation, until symphonic ambient washes of cinematic sound fill in the background. There are instances of metallic clinks, sparkles, and whirrs, too. However, the plaintive piano melody is most evident, as it is very serene and calming.
“Cusp of Twilight” opens with a few light piano-like tones and twinkling of metal. A deep, atmospheric wash is steady, foreboding, and all-encompassing. The metallic chimes and piano offset each other with a fine interplay that is very delicate and precise. The piano-like tones change from fairly clear and bright to slightly muted, as the atmospheric elements bridge everything together. Overall, the song is relatively slow, but highly-contemplative.
“Give Thanks” opens with an airy synth sound, light percussion, and tabla-like drum sounds. The atmospheric waves of sound brighten the instrumentation. There are hints of tinny cymbals, whooshes of electronic sound, wood blocks, piano keys, and swishy percussion. The music is best described as light electronic dance music. The instrumental tune is a spacey version of Enigma’s dance elements, but it is still inherently unique, experimental, and most of all—enthralling. By the end of the song, the percussion is a little more active and rock-like elements appear—only for a moment. There are touches of jazz, new age, world, and avant-garde, which create the most diverse track on the album.
Nathan Speir’s latest, Brighter Days, is an album of extreme virtuosity on the piano, synth, and percussion. The album is relatively reserved; except for a few upbeat tracks. The ambient sound-scapes on many of the tracks suggest a strong new age and electronic presence, which still retains some world beat and jazz foundations. Overall, Brighter Days does not suffer from any deficiency.
Artist: Nathan Speir
Album: Brighter Days
Review by Matthew Forss
Rating: 5 Stars (out of 5)