Monday, May 8, 2023

Swim to America, Vol. 1 (une rétrospective Stephan Eicher au piano) By Doug Hammer


Swim to America, Vol. 1 (une rétrospective Stephan Eicher au piano)


Doug Hammer

Written by

Steve Sheppard


There can be one thing that is certain in review writing, you are always going to come across something new at least five times a week, today is Monday and I am about to find out for the first time about a fellow European musician in Stephan Eicher. Long-time online friend and pianist Doug Hammer now introduces me to his work and more importantly, the collaboration of sorts he had with the artist during the pandemic, this album is the outcome as Doug takes 13 pieces from Stephan, and gives the Swiss rocker and pop stars tunes, the solo piano treatment.

So for me personally this is exciting, as I can look at each of the 13 tracks like brand new compositions, so with that being said let’s start with the opener Ce peu d’amour, this for me is the perfect start, here is a track that says with all its heart, new beginnings, an excitable melody, and here is a song waiting to burst out upon the whole world and shower it with love.

The pandemic eras were strange times indeed, strange alliances were formed, friends and families lost, and new talents and skills were gained, here on Cendrillon après minuit, a certain energy of solitude is created, a lonely essence floats between the notes, in the most moody and reflective of compositions.

Déjeuner en paix is our next solo piano delight, this is a colourful and vibrant arrangement that seems in some way to have a dualistic sense of being, one that seems eager to find peace and a need to be left alone, whilst a certain frenetic energy drifts all around, a clever creation indeed.

Für Immer is our next piece, now this is one incredibly beautiful offering, a pristine piano is offered here by Hammer, this dedication’s one of those heart felt, memorable pieces that manifests moments of time into musical magic, the performance by Doug here is a truly sensitive presentation indeed.

The following piece is a true repose, a thoughtful little moment in time, created by a loving hand and presented by Hammer in a passionate style, and entitled 1000 Vies, a really considerate offering indeed, one that flows naturally into the next offering entitled Je te mentirais disant, a song of deception and mixed emotions. Hammer creates a narrative here that is creatively clever, covering a plethora of moods whilst doing so in a truly artistic performance.

We now step tentatively into the second half of the album with a track called Manteau de gloire, which I think in English means cloak of glory, regardless, this track is one of the most fluent I have heard from Hammer in a while, it’s like listening to a mountain stream in March, its melody so full of power and happiness.

Our following slice of solo piano magic is entitled Nager vers l'Amérique or translated in English means Swim To America, (See what I did there)! This is actually prime Doug Hammer territory, a slow build and progression and one that eventually leads to a climatic crescendo, what a sublime creation indeed, and easily one of my personal favourites off the album.

Si tu veux (Que je chante) allows the love to be shared via the desire to sing straight to the heart. A creation can be found here that is not just carefully crafted, but with a perfect amount of elevation and intent as well, the following narrative entitled Djian's Waltz creates an interesting partnership with the preceding composition, both follow on nicely with each other, in personal reverie that is so very heartfelt.

Prisonnière is our penultimate track off the album; the minor nature of this song pricked my attention, as there were so many examples of enforced solitude that this piece could work well with. This has to be one of the most moving opuses from the release, as one can through the music, feel the pain and sadness pour from the tones and timbre of the composition.

So our last port of call and this is probably the best way with which to leave the release, a song about dark hours called Nocturne. There can be no doubt that Eicher is a fine composer and writer, and its delicate tracks like this one that always show up the tender artistic nuances.

Swim to America, Vol. 1 (une rétrospective Stephan Eicher au piano) by Doug Hammer has to be one of the most interesting albums I have reveiwed this year, not just because I had to reinstate my limited knowledge of French learned some 50 years ago at school, but also because of the symbiosis that has been found here by two artists, thousands of miles apart and during a global pandemic, a time when lock-downs became the norm, but creativity was as free as a bird.

Here is an album you should really give a listen to, it has a whole raft of emotions contained within, it has powerful and meaningful energies melodies and movements, and for me it is a celebration of human success and artistic desire and creation.

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