Rachel Grimes: Book of Leaves
Karate Body Records

Listeners suffering Rachel's withdrawal could do a lot worse than this thirty-seven minute recording of solo piano pieces by the one-time group member Rachel Grimes. Recorded with two pairs of microphones, the album's fourteen settings (which apparently originated as as improvisations that developed over several years) encompass a wide range of moods rather than hewing to one only. “Far Light” and “Mossgrove” are like day and night, for example, with the gentle first piece sparse and spacious and the heavier second dominated by dense clusters.

“Long Before Us” inaugurates the collection on a ponderous note, after which the Nymanesque “Every Morning” sparkles brilliantly, like light reflections flickering across one's bedroom ceiling (the piece is later revisited under the title “Every Morning, Birds” with field elements added). “The Corner Room” exudes the melancholy elegance of an Erik Satie composition (interestingly, Grimes's fall 2009 tour finds her performing material by Satie as well as selections from Book of Leaves).

If there's a patient and unhurried tone to the album, it may be due, at least in part, to the fact that Grimes composed and recorded it while renovating an old Kentucky farm and during a period, therefore, when she found herself especially attuned to natural phenomena; it's not altogether surprising, then, to hear Grimes intercut field recordings of bird chirps and footsteps with sparse piano chords and waterfall-like cascades as she does during “She Was Here.” Pieces such as the quietly ruminative “On the Morrow,” placid “Starwhite,” and wistful “The Side View” match the “Slow Music” designation suggested by the accompanying press notes. “My Dear Companion,” by comparison, is anything but slow or ponderous in its graceful uptempo flight. Though Book of Leaves can't hope to match a Rachel's recording on sonic grounds—you'll hear none of the group's ravishing string playing on this recording, for instance—, it nevertheless remains a satisfying document of Grimes' solo voice at work.

November 2009