CD: Time Apart
Artist: Simon Reich

Time ApartAustralian pianist and composer Simon Reich has had a distinguished career so far, and it shows no signs of slowing down. Although, while his newest release is piano-based, to be accurate I should expand his title from pianist to “multi-instrumentalist,” since he also plays synthesizers and guitar in some of his other music. But whatever the moniker, his accolades include awards for songwriting, film scores, and a Peoples Choice Award in top 25 tracks Smithsonian Remix competition. In addition, his music is used in an experimental program at the University of Western Australia. Its only been a little over a year since Simon first posted his music on SoundCloud (see link at bottom) and in that short time he has had more than 20,000 listens, and over 500 followers. He is also a blog author, music reviewer & an administrator of “The Piano Cloud” group, which is a worldwide organization made up of currently over 600 members.


While Simon began playing the piano at the age of 6 years old and took lessons, it wasn’t very long until began marchingSimon to the beat of his own drummer and started composing his own music rather than reading notes from a page. He went on to spend years playing in bands and developing his talents in front of an audience. Now, as a composer, Simon creates music based on piano improvisations and then later orchestrates them with a variety of sampled instruments and synthesizer sounds. Although his music on “Time Apart” gravitates toward the neo-classical genre, I was interested to learn that Simon also makes contemporary ambient electronic music as well, and has a separate page on SoundCloud for that.


I could start out by invoking the image of the mythological phoenix bird in writing about the first track on the album, since it is entitled “Ashes,” and the music rises from there. Although this piece doesn’t really have that born of fire feel. It’s actually quite a light and airy solo piano piece. Perhaps the image of “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” captures it better. Starting off on a more dramatic note is the next track, “Suspended.” Of this one, Simon shares: “This is a piano improvisation where I turned off the light, hit record, and started playing.” It seems so thematically well developed and beautifully nuanced, it amazes me that it was totally improvised, and in a single take, no less.


On track 3, entitled “Regrets,” I got the first taste of Simon’s use of orchestration. I thought this added a lot to the piece and he has a good sense of when and where to add his accents, in this case string sounds. These included both sustained strings and more staccato sounds. The next piece, “Breathe” features a nice solo violin, as compared to the string sections on the preceding track. I was particularly aware of Simon’s flare for composition on a song called “Deep Black,” which had a cinematic air to it. Although that is not surprising as he has won two awards in film music competitions. One moment which stood out for me was about two thirds of the way through the song when it had built to a crescendo and then dropped down into a much quieter movement – very nice. A lovely melody and beautiful arrangement are highlighted on an emotionally evocative piece called “Loss.” I really appreciate the placement of the orchestral/string accents and how they support the music in places and then drop out in other parts allowing the solo piano to carry the song.


Schnee GefallenSome of Simon’s most sensitive playing is heard on a piano solo track called “Schnee Gefallen,” which has an interesting story behind it. In his attempt to portray a winter landscape, Simon shares: “It required me to ignore my Southern Hemisphere hot surroundings and dig extremely deep to find snow! We have some high mountains in Australia that get snow on their peaks a few months a year, but nothing like you get overseas, so the first time I really saw snow heaped up and falling from the sky in an urban area, was on a visit to my Oma in Germany. For that reason, this sparse piano tune is called ‘Schnee Gefallen’, which just means ‘the snow has fallen.’ It tries to capture that really quiet sound made by the flakes falling & unlike other weather patterns it has a very still atmospheric ambience.” After hearing the tune, I have to say that Simon did an excellent job of painting a snow-filled winter scene in sound.


The album draws to a conclusion with a track that is quite different than anything else on the album, but which I enjoyed very much. As I mentioned earlier, in addition to the more impressionistic neo-classical piano style heard on the album, Simon is also adept at ambient new age music, and this track is an example of that. On “Deep Forest,” ethereal synthesizer pads create a lush sonic landscape with the sounds of nature featured prominently. As Simon describes: “I want to make it clear from the start, that our natural fauna are the world’s greatest musicians. We are justDeep Forest playing catch-up! I didn’t want this tune to have the forest samples just slotted in for light relief in an already completed music piece, I wanted this to be a duet with the birds & insects. That’s why in this track, all the samples are brought right up in the mix & it’s actually them who are supplying the most interesting musical moments, as I downplayed my own musical statements, so their sounds would totally shine. I love field recording, so this also includes some of my own personal collection. There are some native birds from the Kakadu national park in Queensland, Australia and lots of water recordings as well, to give that whole ‘forest’ feeling.” It made for a wonderful ending to the album –  like a luscious desert to top off a meal. It was a nice surprise and I actually wouldn’t mind hearing a whole recording of this ambient style. But I appreciated having this piece included as it gave an indication of Simon’s range as a composer when contrasted with the album’s other tracks.


All in all, Time Apart is an excellent example of Simon’s flare for melody, arrangement, and orchestration, as well as his sensitive and tasteful playing style. Given his thematic and stylistic range, I’ll be interested to hear what he comes up with next.


All the tracks from Time Apart can be heard at: