In recent years there has been a wealth of composers that fall into the loosely-aligned world of modern-classical, post-ambient, avant-electronic and instrumental post-rock. They draw from all of those styles and explore their compositional meeting points. Locally, our leading light is Sophie Hutchings and on her third album she again finds new and fascinating ways to create cerebral and emotionally rich and ornate arrangements – led by her piano but greatly enhanced with strings and ghostly, layered voices.
The album title suggests the deepest state of sleep where our mind is both at its most imaginative and vulnerable. Suppressed thoughts are exposed and tested, fantasies are lived out in suspended reality and our fears are briefly made all too real in dream. Memory I feels like a wash of romantic nostalgia, a light dance through the past while Memory II adds choral voices to the increasing tension like a rising anxiety entering the fray before subsiding to a slow calm. Falling and Living Light are high points with their contrasting approaches to twilight melancholia and fine examples of the way Hutchings varies her technical approach to her instrument. Flurries of notes can either form ethereal phrases or bolder statements, merely through variations in pressure and intensity. There’s a lyricism to her piano playing that draws you in, providing equal fascination for how she plays and what she is playing.
Hutchings’ ability to work in the light as eloquently as she explores darkness marks Wide Asleep as her most expansive and resonant work to date.
Wide Asleep is out now via Preservation Music