By Amanda Nordqvist
After the smashing success of his debut album from 2017, Stories From Far Away On Piano, British post-classical composer James Heather went on to collect both self-made string quartet versions as well as others’ re-imaginings of pieces from the debut album and his Modulations: EP 1. The new pieces mix Heather’s grounded foundation of gentle, classical piano, with the texture and sensation from more electronic universes; with the addition of ambience and experimentalism, these versions allow for a brand new listening experience.
‘Reworks’ starts off strong with Echo Collective giving their take on Ruqia – differing from the original track’s light, clean, straightforward sound, the duo’s interpretation is a gritty, raw version, focusing mainly on the ambience surrounding the main theme, with a denser frame of strings, whistling and ringing backing up the candid loop of the melody.
The album progresses in a similar manner, as DJ Seinfeld applies an equally spacious ambience to MHope, allowing the synth to take command: the sounds are braided nicely together, and though the cold decisiveness of the ambience slightly clashes with the emotive piano, it creates a sense of being stuck in-between two worlds – both vibrating aggressively on either side, demanding your full attention. It is followed by the pleasant Biomes as visualized by Aparde, a track allowing for a breath of fresh air – needing no flashy grandeur to make its statement; it stands out none the less. With soft house vibes and a fuzzy submersion, it mirrors nicely the original versions beautiful and equally unassuming nature.
After two re-imagined string quartet pieces, with strings like a warm summer breeze and an awe-inspiring growth in depth and sobriety, the album gets another facelift as the harp gets centre stage: expertly manoeuvred by Mary Lattimore, And She Came Home has been given a phenomenally un-produced and unaltered sound, the warmth of the tender strings making for an unexpected mix with the eerie, fluttering ambience. Sarah Davachi took a similarly minimalistic path and gave Bad Role Model a more profound depth and darkness without over-complication, having the synthesizer mould the tune into her own version.
The last of the Reworks is the intriguingly unsteady platform of Chihei Hatakeyama’s version of Blueprint: every movement seems dampened and weighed down, struggling to express and be heard. It symbolizes the whole album quite well – the captivating essence of the original version still shines through, even run through what seems like endless filters and channels (the desperation of the struggle making it just that much more sublime), and I can’t imagine Heather could be any happier with the new and improved collection.