Recorded in a home built studio during the pandemic lockdown period, Modulations: EP2 is the first collection of original compositions in four years from London-based pianist & composer James Heather. The five songs on the EP map the arc of a journey of grief and recovery which started with the tragic loss of his father. The songs were originally conceived while touring and performing over the past few years and then recorded in a single take from memory using an approach Heather calls ‘Pulse Music’ in which he plays freely with no metronome or official notation, relying instead on muscle memory, feel and instinct to decide where each track will go. As a whole, it serves as a document of his deeply personal connection to the piano which was a constant presence throughout.
The EP is executed with the use of only solo piano and is a love story to the instrument that was my first passion
While the album versions of these songs are poignant and concise distillations of that personal journey, Heather recently presented a set of extended live performances from his home studio as part of a Brainfeeder’s Twitch series ‘The Hit’ in which add new dimensions to the work while at the same time yielding deeper insight into the fluidity of his creative process. He is now releasing those performances on video one of which I am pleased to be able to share here in an exclusive premiere, an utterly absorbing eleven-minute rendition of “Beginnings”. As he leans into the piano, eyes closed in total concentration, Heather slowly approaches the tentative beauty of the song’s original form ultimately to release a latent energy in the piece in breaking waves of emotion cascading across the keyboard in a moment of moving catharsis.
Beginnings is about emerging from the fog and having the courage to start again. It’s about connecting to the natural world around us as a way to transcend whatever may be holding us back. The art for the release is a photo taken in my studio of a Stargazer Lily opening, photographed by Suki. The photo uses UV light techniques to reveal a fluorescence that is usually hidden. The Stargazer Lily symbolizes purity and rebirth and this image is a reminder to me that our inner light is ever present even though you can’t always feel it.
Modulations: EP2 features artwork by Suki is now available from Ahead of Our Time via Bandcamp and other major digital download and streaming services. James is also the host of Moving Sounds which airs via Soho Radio and curator of the long running associated playlist.