Review of Shades
Peter Swart - Shades
With The Path (see iO 59) Peter Swart proved being an expert in making intimate symphonic music in the category of Anthony Phillips and Tim Storey. On Shades he manages to maintain this status and to strengthen it, with the input of drummer Koos van Reeven being of great importance. His full, but nowhere bombastic, contributions help to firmly ground compositions as ‘Krimi’ (the death/murder of a young Brazilian in London after the subway bombings taking shape as a German police film) and ‘The Maestro / Maitreya’ (about the re-emergence of this Eastern religious being). The production has also improved. Without losing the warm sound of the seventies, the music is full of vintage sounds as electric and acoustic piano, strings, Mellotron and Mooglike keyboards. Only the sliding bassynthesizer - although not disturbing – sounds a bit surrogate. Although the number of concepts is reduced, compared with the predecessor, to one (‘The Snow Queen’, a quartet inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale), Shades sounds as a whole and seems more coherent. This is primarily accomplished by the blending of the thirteen miniatures and the fact that a melancholy, wistful atmosphere prevails. The piano ballads ‘Summer Rain’, ‘The Father’ and ‘The Teacher’, which are whispering sung by Swart in the best Duncan Browne tradition, fit perfectly in this setting. But also ‘Rondino’ and ‘The Salmon Suite’, with classic, Phillips-like, guitar playing, contribute to the subdued character. The stillness is interrupted only when floating guitars, typically as the early 70s-sounding electric guitar (think of Bo Hansson, Gandalf and the early Genesis), stirs up the emotions. This turns ‘In The Depth There Are Shades’ and previously mentioned tracks with drum contributions, into modest mini symphonies.