by Chris Hatch
In an age when so much demands our attention, Romantic Piano is a transportive, transformative, soothing caress
Almost five years have passed since the release of Gia Margaret’s poised and considered debut record, There’s Always Glimmer. And in that time, a lot has changed. A global pandemic (are we still talking about that?) forced people to re-evaluate the things that are important to them, and the places in which they want to spend their time. Things are not straightforward anymore. And for Gia Margaret, it feels as though musically things have changed too – the relatively standard songwriting showcased on her debut was replaced with fluttering, formless ambient music on 2020’s Mia Gargaret, a record that delved into the spaces between melodies and lyrics, and tried to figure out what lurked there. Softly layered synths swirled around alongside simple hooks, and quasi-self-help snippets of voice notes and lecture excerpts. Those looking for some kind of aural ointment – a salve for the soul – would find much to love within its half an hour run time.
And largely, Romantic Piano carries on in that same vein. The beds of subtly hypnotising synths are now replaced by incidental, environmental noises – the sound of a key being pressed, the buzz of overheard voices, the chirps of cicadas. However, with the piano as the lead instrument, it now feels as though more consideration has been given to melody – it’s as though Margaret has chosen to stick with the germ of an idea and ruminate on it, letting the space around it change how it feels, rather than allowing it to sprawl out into a full verse/chorus/verse song.
Some of those melodies seem timeless. They are at the point where simplicity and classical music meet – half the time they feel studied and thought-out, and the rest of the time they feel immediate and off-the-cuff. Imagine a record full of tracks like Aphex Twin’s Avril 14th and you’re in the right ballpark. Margaret’s use of restraint is impeccable – each piece is so finely balanced that moments like the drum machine coming into the mix on 2017, or the piano line wandering in towards the end of Guitar Piece, or the woozy horns lazily easing themselves into A Stretch, really feel special.
The tracks that make up Romantic Piano end up being far more impactful and edifying than you’d expect. In an age when so much demands our attention, yet when our attention span is so short, these tiny, healing tinctures feel like they grant you the kind of headspace and otherness that hours of meditation would take to bring. As music fans, we are lucky that the likes of Orindal and Jagaguwar are allowing artists such as Margaret to experiment and explore things outside the realms of conventional indie and pop music. Romantic Piano is a transportive, transformative, soothing caress.
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