Keith Kenniff hasn't radically modified his modus operandi since he began releasing Goldmund material: similar to the spontaneous, late-night approach he brought to Corduroy Road, his inaugural release under the alias in 2005, Kenniff improvised the pieces on Sometimes, recording each in a couple of takes deep into the night and with the kids asleep. And like that debut outing, the new one, recorded over a three-year period, also draws for inspiration from Civil War music, specifically its timeless simplicity, emotional directness, and plaintive character. As those familiar with Kenniff's work well know, Goldmund isn't the only iron in his fire: the one-time Berklee College of Music student also releases ambient-electronic music under the Helios name, pairs with his wife Hollie in the shoegaze outfit Mint Julep, and has had music featured in films, on TV, and in ads for companies such as Apple, Facebook, and Google.
While each one of these projects is special, Goldmund is an especially valuable one for this creatively fertile artist in the way it acts as a cathartic outlet. In that regard, the brief, piano-centered meditations on Sometimes present a diary-like document of his artistic self and provide him with a means by which his inchoate inner states can be translated into physical form. All seventeen of the pieces are solo productions with one exception, “A Word I Give,” a beautifully realized collaboration with Japanese pianist Ryuichi Sakamoto.
Though piano is the central instrument, it's not always the only one as Kenniff augments some of the material with ambient textures, orchestral touches, and field recordings; as a result, a piece such as “As Old Roads” plays more like a mini-concerto with a classical chamber ensemble accompanying the soloist. Painterly dashes of strings and synth washes make the title track feel even more soothing than it would be if the minimal piano playing was heard alone; “Is As,” “To Be Fair and True,” and “The Wind Wings,” on the other hand, sigh with the softest of whispers. Regardless of however many sounds Kenniff threads into a piece (even synthetic ones), it never loses its rustic folk character, and there's a purity and emotional immediacy to these stirring settings that makes them deeply affecting. Hushed, peaceful, and pastoral they may be, but they're all the more potent for being so, and as a result it wouldn't be overstating it to describe Sometimes as a tonic or perhaps balm to the weary soul.