Peter Broderick: Docile
Kning Disk

Almost as fascinating as the music on Docile are the written notes by Peter Broderick that accompany it. Originally from Portland and currently residing in Copenhagen, the composer (who recently toured with Efterklang as a violinist, issued the Type single Retreat/Release, and soon will have his album debut Float released by Type too) reveals that the ten solo piano pieces comprising the Docile mini-album (twenty-seven minutes) were composed in six days in April, 2007 and “recorded in less than an hour” on the night of May 6, 2007. He also astutely opines that the “piano is such an amazing instrument because you don't have to do much to make it sound beautiful.” With respect to his subsequent contention that “these songs add nothing new to the vast collection of piano music out there,” while it's true that Broderick's pretty pieces won't make a serious dent in the classical repertoire of Chopin, Debussy, et al., they certainly make for a splendid half-hour of listening.

There's a live feel to the performance—one hears him sit down at the piano at the start, leave at the end, and the creak of the bench and the instrument in between—which enhances the intimate character of the music. Most of these two- to three-minute vignettes are emotive and reverberant, especially so when Broderick leaves ample spaces between notes and uses the sustain pedal to let notes bleed into those spaces. His playing style is admirably simple and uncluttered, with the left hand's cascades supporting the right's single-note themes (an exception, “Laden” is primarily ringing chords). Representative of his approach, “Dearest” is appropriately tender but not sentimental, while “Diverge,” one of two long center-pieces, is a melancholy rumination that's both brooding and stately. Best of all is the pensive ballad “Ceasefire” which may well be the prettiest piece of music heard round these parts in months. There's a unifying tone to the collection despite the varying character of its pieces (a hint of Debussy's "Claire de lune" haunts "Begin" and the spirit of a Philip Glass theme hovers over "Query") with each one feeling like it's springing to life from the one before. As pleasing is the fact that Docile represents the first volume in a projected solo piano series.

April 2008