Thursday, October 27, 2022

Melancholia By Doug Hammer




Doug Hammer

Written by

Steve Sheppard


Doug Hammer is back with a brand new album entitled Melancholia and this is an album, that like it or not, speaks to us all as we scramble to get every ounce out of the day, and as much as we can from each breath we take. Here the artist explores the dark realms of life’s rich and turbulent patterns, and it is us, the ever eager listener, who gets to travel these candle lit corridors with the pianist.

Here is an album that touches our hearts and souls, and flirts with our imaginations, for each moment passes like a feather in the wind on an October day, and is then gone, on Darkness Falls we find that truth speaking loudly to us, and even more enticing and real that the raven at the end of Poe’s bed, a sombre but honest beginning indeed, one that contains a splendid build and progression within.

The following piece really reminds me of early Harold Budd and his work with Eno on Ambient 4 from way back in the early 80’s, this is a tremendous creation from Hammer, one that manifests acres of ambience to just flow and enjoy, the lightness of touch allows us to create our own realities as we listen to the offering, The Long Night.

The following musical narrative created a somewhat European feel for me, perhaps even one from a long distant past, when films were black and white and silent. Here Hammer brings us a track entitled Long Ago, which seems very appropriate, and from the keys we can see the ghosts of two dancers still swaying to the rhythm of a long dead time, caught in the residual pathways of forevermore perhaps.

The older we live, the more we rely on our memories, sadly the more we think, the more dangerous it can be, as we can get pulled into moments in time that contain regret or sadness, and nothing can be achieved from that. Within Just A Memory, this is an opportunity to examine those thoughts, dark or otherwise, Hammer once more produces a moving onward opus of a piano piece, one that is as fragile as the memory itself, a touching performance indeed, one that drifts quietly to an end, like life itself.

It is interesting that today I have reviewed two very reflective solo piano albums, this one even more so, and here on this next track a different memory came to light, as 12 days before I was born, the Soviet Union launched a dog into space called Laika. Now I’m wondering if this song could be about this memory, this event, long passed and gone into the bin of time, but never the less, a crafted performance indeed.

That European motif is certainly strong and even more so on this creation called Monsieur Barre's Carousel. This is a timeless performance by Hammer, one that moves into a circular journey with the carousel, and gifts us a performance that still hovers in the winds of yesterday.

As we reach the half way marker on the album we come across a soft, yet reflective composition called Empty Chair, that chair used to contain the energy of one no longer, and is now just a chair, but the memories still flow like rivers across deep vales of contemplation, a delicate presentation by Hammer indeed.

The following musical tale is a haunting arrangement entitled Missing You, I had several of those moments the other week whilst Chrissie was thousands of miles away from me, but thankfully she returned home, There are many who from our lives are gone forever, but that doesn’t stop us from missing them, and here Hammer creates the perfect soundtrack for that very segment in time, one filled to the brim with an emotional performance.

Dancing Alone is a moving piece, quite sad in its overall structure, but a piece that illustrates the lost, the loves passed, and the emptiness inside, this is Hammer drawing a creative tale of a single person simply still dancing with the memories of happy days long since departed, this is without doubt one of the most heartfelt and powerful pieces off the release.

One of the hardest things we all have to master is the art of Letting Go, it wasn’t until I understood this, that I was truly able to move on. Doug Hammer always has the potential of producing absolute classics, and I believe that on this mournful and desolate piece he has done it again, the delicacy of presentation is sublime, but be ready for the actual letting go, and the march onwards with fresh energy into a brand new life moment, a truly masterful composition indeed.

The dark corners of our lives are haunted by the slowing down of our very existence, and on Winding Down we have a piece that is almost as expressive as the actual moment itself. We are as melodic as ever, but sands still drift from one half of the glass into the other. A pristine performance can be heard here by a pianist, one who is clearly in touch with his emotional musical muse.

The penultimate track off this album stands before us and is called Almost Midnight, time speeds up the older you get, and the more you try and hold onto a moment, the more you wish for the hands on the clock to stop, but the quicker they seem to go. On this last but one offering we can almost hear that in the presentation, a change in speed, a juxtaposition of time versus reality in a quite stunning performance.

Our last port of call is an arrangement entitled Farewell; this sombre conclusion to a moving album sums up the entire project, with a suggestion that the entire creation of this album may well have been a cathartic journey for the artist, a wonderfully respectful and warm way with which to finish from the artist.

We live our lives in a sequence of moments, some happy, some sad, some even carry an energy of ambivalence, but here in this creative and artistic endeavour Doug Hammer has pretty much covered all the bases on this his new album Melancholia. Here is an album that is like a scrapbook of memories, and each and every crafted track upon this 13 piece album is taken, birthed, lived and felt with great emotion by the musician, a must have indeed for all fans of solo piano.

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