It’s been a strange sort of day. Usually, the life of a freelance music writer sees them juggling all manner of music cheek-by-jowl. Eeking meaning from the latest pop princess one minute. Finding the point of a bunch of rock and roll cliches still trying to change the world with songs about cars and girls, all of them in A minor, the next. Trying to find something new to say about a band who are yet to get the memo that Brit pop, punk, or synthwave is over.
But today has been all about instrumental, cinematic, strange and soothing music, from ambient environmental concerns to neo-classical piano to wig-out and wonderful free jazz-rock. So it seems appropriate that this collection of cool instrumental tunes from Ellis Hadlock should fall on my desk and find itself in such illustrious and lush company.
The title tells you everything you need to know and what follows a series of piano-led, electronica augmented (but only very gently) pieces designed to soothe, serenade, relax and recharge the listener. And considering just how few sonic tools are employed here, the results are astounding. But, of course, it isn’t the number of tools you use. It is how deft you are at using them. Ellis Hadlock can take everything from spacious, chiming passages to ornate and exquisite playing, from lulling lows to the occasional punctuating crescendo and create gorgeous and expressive instrumental pieces from them.
Although words like ambient and understated are excellent catch-all terms for much of the music he creates, that misrepresents the range of emotion playing out here. There are moments when gentle reflection drifts away to be replaced by brooding anxiety, when peaceful contemplation is exchanged for dark, slow-burning, dramatic builds. And even moments when dark clouds, having slowly gathered, are dispelled by rays of sonic sunshine.
It is surprising how much can be achieved through careful composition and even more exacting delivery. And the results are glorious, to say the least. On Timeless Moods, Ellis Hadlock can conjure and create a broader range of emotions than many players can in their careers.
On the surface, such an album might seem like another meditative, cinematic soundtrack of the sort found in the music section of a New Age gift shop. But that would be to miss its true brilliance. Subsequent plays reveal hidden depths which seem unending. As you get your ear acclimatised to the music, you hear the deeper tones and textures you missed in the previous play. Appreciate the intricate layers of sound better, and enjoy the sounds that seem to pool and percolate in the spaces as one piano note fades out and another is ushered in.
It’s an album that only grows in a statue the more you play it. It becomes more valuable and appreciated every time you immerse yourself in its charming ways. How many albums can you genuinely say that about?