By Amanda Nordqvist
Bordeaux-based pianist and composer Julien Marchal is back with the fourth and likely last part of the INSIGHT series he’s worked on since the first album came out back in 2015. With INSIGHT IV, Marchal is renewing himself by exploring different types of harmonies and rhythms, while keeping the intimate setting with microphones affectionately close to the heart of the piano, allowing for that homely sound we so dearly love. Passionate about the euphoric feeling to be found when listening to outstanding classical music, Marchal’s minimalistic compositions all adhere to influences both by electronic and folk music, as well as composers such as Philip Glass and Arvo Pärt.
Not wanting to blur the open minds of his listeners, the pieces of the INSIGHT series are all titled with Roman numbers, allowing for complete transparency – no hidden agendas, no underlying intent, only the individual journey every listener undoubtedly travels while indulging in Marchal’s music. Every piece can stand on its own: the albums needn’t be listened to in any particular order, yet they still feel very much a part of something grand. INSIGHT IV begins with the ever so soft XXXIV, the organic movement of the melody giving it an incredibly human feel to it, painting a vivid picture of a person telling a story they know by heart. XXXV follows up with a steady rhythmic rolling on effortlessly, embalming me in warmth, only to be woken up by the unexpected dissonances thrown in ever so carefully.
There’s a subtle change in the emotive pallet throughout the album, noticeable as the rather slowly burning XXXVII comes forth, offering a little more afterthought and focus on the nuances in force and expression – a welcome transformation that expands even further in the slightly darker color scheme of XXXVIII. There’s even a beautiful mixture of more contemporary influences and rather classical ones, as the big revelation of XLI comes crashing in: melody exploding in a cascade of fluttering, a steady urgency and a sudden clarity, gloriously combined.
Though the pieces do offer some coherency, the INSIGHT albums really are more like collections of beautiful compositions, to be listened to without any need for a time line or concept. Marchal’s deep love for the art he creates is apparent and shines through in every piece, and his urge to express and explore the never-ending possibilities of music is absolutely inspiring – whatever path he ventures on next will surely be equally as sublime.