New Music – John Derek Bishop ‘PI’ Album Review

As fragile as a falling raindrop with the weight, depth, and mass of a black hole, PI is an album that can pass by in the blink of an eye or stretch out for eternity. It cannot be measured in timestamps and play counts, it exists outside of that, it is both liminal space and the destination. It is a work of art, and it is nothing at all.

PI is closer to a single piece of music, separated into movements, than an album consisting of individual tracks. While I may make reference to the track listing to highlight a particular evolution, shift, or refrain, I think it would be best to focus on the narrative, mood, and interpretation of the music by primarily focusing on it as a indistinguishable whole.

The album is imperfect, and purposely so, John Derek Bishop created the album in one sitting. It is a meditation. It is a living breathing monument to creativity and playful passions. It is simultaneously utterly uninteresting and infinitely fascinating. It does not get lost in trying to weave memorable melodies or monumental moments, but instead celebrates the small and insignificant and it is in this gentle and soulful subtlety that the poetry and precision of the piano keys casts its spell.

There is something ancient, hallowed, and magical about this album. It feels sacred and spellbinding. It gives you as much as you give to it. If you listen to it in the background, while you are distracted making dinner, or focused on other things, its spark can fizzle out. If it was to be gifted to you by the new Gods of the algorithm, its strange sorcery might not dazzle you enough to even summon to mind its own name. But if you peer into the abyss, it will meet your gaze, and summon you to take a delve into the dark expanse at its heart.

It starts out with a sparkling shine. The keys sound so bright. Yet there is something mournful and timeless to the quality of the sound. It has a vintage vinyl sepia tone to the sound. While the tickling trickle and tinkle of the chords is filled with a joyous buoyancy, there is an element of something slower, sadder, and separated in the way those chords are broken apart into their fragmented and fractured parts. They function, but not as full of flavor as you are used to hearing them. This motif continues for a moment with further discord and the dirge of dissonance lurking in the shadow of every note played.

The production, mixing, and mastering of the sound is honestly breathtaking. It feels like you have your ear in the hood of the piano. You can hear the wood. The scratch and scuffing of the individual tendrils of frayed fabric pulling away from the cold hum of resonant metal. As fingers work their way down a melodic moment you can hear the tiny hairs embedded in skin, imperceptible to the naked eye, skating over the plastic. Listening to this album is like an acid trip into the very essence of the piano. I am as lost in the mechanics as I am the music. Which as a meditative act, is about as truly present as a listener can be. It’s beautiful to behold.

The album deliberately leaves space for the listener to put themselves into the music. It will no doubt transport each of us to entirely different realms and realities, and each listen will probably evoke a different emotive energy. At its core though, it feels bittersweet, full of reverence and reverie. There is a tugging sadness, like looking at childhood photographs, where you are happy in the memory, but somehow you are also in mourning, not for anyone who has actually passed, but the innocence of childhood itself. You still exist. You are grown now. That child is gone. A death without death.

There are moments or perfect ecstasy, where the expertise and skill of the player behind the piano takes over in a frenzy or flourish. There are moments where it seems so lost and listless that the chords don’t sound like chords at all, they move in and out effortlessly like breathing, holding space, taking the time to center. This album is so unashamedly vulnerable and raw, it manages to capture the stream of consciousness of an artist trying not to make art, making art. It doesn’t let itself linger or leap too far into any one lane. It is deliberate in its dilly dally dalliance somewhere around the middle of nowhere.

Music that makes its home on the gallery wall, this is art and the quality of its heart and sound let you analyze every individual brush stroke. It is a vivid and vibrantly painted piece all done in grey. There is a bright white light at one end, and a terrifying endless black at the other. But don’t get lost staring into either end, while ignoring the other, the true beauty is in watching the light beam dance with the skittering shadow where they meet. It is poetic, philosophical, and profoundly powerful. It is passionate, playful, and perfectly imperfect.

If you come to this album with too little or too much expectation you will be disappointed. It is without ego. Without grandeur or posturing. It is honest. It is humble. You can hear it shift in the seat as it considers where it is heading next. And in that uncertainty, in that moment of poised and poisoned pause, is a poultice of mortality, a potion of knowledge to teach the meaning of life, and an elixir of eternal youth. It is a sour taste, and a sweet one too.

Take your time with this album. It is a brief and beautiful ride played with the twinkling stardust of infinity, and the crushing chorus of the eternal void.

This review was made possible by SubmitHub.

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