As autumn skulks around and the evenings start to close in with a bite, the daily commute home from work will soon feel like a pilgrimage to one’s safe little sanctum . The inner world that bridges those places will veer between niggling thoughts, podcasts, carefully chosen playlists, fond reminiscence of the day just past and, perhaps above all else, a burning desire to return to one’s own quiet corner in the world. It is this place – the still and silent refuge from the bluster of the external world – that has bred the discreet and meditative grace of Isotach by Matthew Bourne.
Recorded in his rural Yorkshire home during what the musician describes as 'extreme weather', these ten improvised solo piano pieces sees Bourne masterfully manipulate solitude in tandem with the sway of nature. While we are, of course, not privy to the process itself, the outlying terrain of the wind and rain-battered moors beyond Bourne’s window becomes his ever-changing muse, each sparse, impressionistic motif wrangled into form from a single moment framed by the outside looking in and the inside world peering out. Whether peacefully at the start the day or pensively at its solitary tail-end, we, the listener, observe the extemporary reverberations of those isolated moments that Bourne fashions from nothingness with understated aplomb.
Where last year's moogmemory proved a playful and exceedingly listenable paean to iconic polyphonic synth, the Memorymoog, Isotach doubles up as the still after the surge. From the nuanced, flickering melodies that dance atop broad cello notes on its title track to 'Isothere' – a quietly rapt peak in which each carefully struck chord evokes the spacious religiosity of Talk Talk circa Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock – Bourne occupies a place where the space between the sounds and the void that surrounds his person resound, intangible yet presiding over the minimalism of Isotach with a rare sense of beatific power. With many pieces here subtly coloured with cello by the Avebury avant-garde musician, the likes of highlight ‘Extinction’ – a masterfully mournful abstraction marrying the ghosts of Thom Yorke and Chicago post-rock trailblazers Gastr Del Sol – and swansong ‘Isogone (For Howie Reeve)’ (one of three track titles bearing personal tribute on the release) are threaded with a rich, tonal ambience and a strong visual tenor usually earmarked for soundtracks.
In an age when subtlety is far from the most prized connotative currency, Isotach is a quite literal stark reminder that finesse and restraint can still bound forth on their own terms. Beyond what lay beyond his window when crafting the release, we may never know the private and personal impetus that spurred Bourne on, but at least we now have a worthy new soundtrack to help navigate our own inner worlds, both within and far beyond our own safe little sanctums.
8Brian Coney's Score