I only heard this album, by Armenian pianist Tigran, for first time the other night and wasn’t sure if I’d had time to write up my thoughts before the release date, but when I listened to it I knew after about 60 seconds that I had to make time to write about it as I wanted to try and persuade you (thank you for reading!) to listen to it as well.
It’s an album full of tracks that defy classification. As soon as you set upon a genre for the song it slips into something else. It might be laziest to call this jazz, but I’ve had a go at trying to describe what’s going on here.
After a lilting honky-tonk piano waltz intro, lending an intimate and slightly creepy sound to the beginning of the piece, the music slips into an even numbered beat with multiple relaxed vocals over the top. To make comparisons, this piano-led music has sparks of bands like Neil Cowley Trio, EST, Sufjan Stevens, Sigur Rós, I’m sure you could name more (my press release also suggests Madlib and Steve Reich).
My favourite track on the album, ‘Erishta’, gets beautifully Radiohead-esque halfway through – lovely complicated drum kit beats with sustained vocals. But this isn’t predictable music. Everything shifts fairly late into the track and it becomes almost Deerhoofy with its offbeat, unnerving and almost obsessive vocals.
The funky ‘Drip’ features vocals and piano in discordant harmony, following the same rhythm. Funk somehow makes the transition into near chillout halfway through. Another standout is ‘The Year Is Gone’ a catchy throbbing piano led piece that’s worked its way into my subconscious over the past couple of days already.
As well as changing mood, the album also peaks and falls in energy. The sandwich of the heavy energy in the second half of ‘Court Jester’ is echoed by ‘Pt 1 Collapse’, with big bassy heavy chords. Both pieces sit either side of the delicate and haunting ‘Pagan Lullaby’.
If you really want to put this in a box then I guess Shadow Theatre is somewhere on the road between jazz and popular alternative. But a better description is probably to tell you that the music is slippery and exciting. It’s other worldly and although the piano playing is superb, it’s never an attention stealer – it feels organic and beautiful. Pick up a copy and curl up for a listen on a rainy winters evening.
Shadow Theatre is released on November 4th and Tigran plays the Queen Elizabeth Hall on the 19th November as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival.