Leighton Craig: 11 Easy Pieces

In what must be considered a rather startling change of pace for ROOM40, Leighton Craig's 11 Easy Pieces departs from the label's usual explorative experimentalism for a half-hour collection of brightly melodic keyboard settings (in fact, the album contains thirteen pieces, with the eleven so-called easy ones supplemented by two less easy ones). On his first widely available solo album, the Brisbane resident primarily plays cheap analogue keyboards (e.g., Casio MT40, Yahama CS01 Synthesizer) that he recorded to cassette at his home kitchen table between 2003 and 2004.

It's a charming travelogue through evanescent moods, with nine of the pieces under the two-minute mark. Some pieces are almost child-like in tone and carefree in spirit (the jubilant “One Easy Piece” and tranquil ballad “The Last Easy Piece”), some evocative (the melancholy space waltz “Comet,” the jittery “Signal Pattern,” and “Self-Portrait Underwater,” an aquatic setting of sonar bleeps and bubbling noises),and some sonically striking (the blinding cascades of “Vertical Lines Descending” and Glass-like gamelan weave of “Another Easy Piece”). Recorded during the invasion of Iraq (and clearly one of the not-so-easy pieces), the low-level atmospheric drone “Threnody,” shows itself to be the wild card when its ten-minute duration towers over the surrounding vignettes. Craig's lo-fi approach is belied by the rich array of sounds he coaxes from the gear: at times an electric piano is simulated (“Another Easy Piece”), and elsewhere organ (“Comet”). He also proves himself to be a master of brevity who takes no more than a minute, for example, to establish “Circle of Thoughts” as a ponderous meditation.

August 2008