• Thu, Jul 25, 2024
Reviews

Nipun Cheema Continues To Engage With One Piano

9.0

album Reviews Aug 14, 03:58pm

‘Preludes’ is the latest in a run of interestingly written piano pieces

The last time we dropped in on what pianist-composer Nipun Cheema was up to, the music in question was a lovely little instrumental EP called ‘Miniatures’. This was an engaging set of songs that achieved the rare combination of being wonderfully evocative and not being so long as to be anything near a drag. So, it’s been months since that, and now we have a new EP. It’s called ‘Preludes’, and it’s a much shorter but punchier presentation of different ideas while using the same tools. Plus, it still works, which shows just how important the time-honoured process of just writing good music is.

It’s probably disrespectful to quantify ability without first being a trained piano player like Nipun is, but it’s very apparent from the first note of the first song here that his playing ‘sounds’ excellent. As much as any thriving community of gatekeepers is going to enjoy breaking down certain highly technical aspects of his repertoire, those of us that have just our ears to try and understand these songs will find plenty of satisfaction nevertheless. There’s emotion in how he plays with tempo and volume. He quietly sings along to his playing (let’s not mindlessly throw Tigran Hamasyan and Keith Jarrett into this conversation as a knee-jerk comparison, ok?), and that brings an honest, involved vibe into the mix. And of course, there are five whole songs to be enjoyed.

 

 

“What makes Nipun’s music interesting is that he doesn’t seem to coming from any hyper-specific style, and anything you find inspiring will most probably come from your ear, not his. He’s just writing interesting music and playing his fingers off.”
- RSJ

‘Preludes’ is composed of four interludes and one ‘anchor’ piece. That complicated sentence, of course, means that Nipun sees fit to explore one idea in a longform manner while keeping the other four tracks on the EP short. It would be a bit laboured to try and explain each track individually, and it does seem like the tracklist is to be experienced in totality. So, let’s talk about themes that run through the EP instead. The playing in general is far more percussive and abstract than direct (take the introductory motifs of ‘Deluge’ and ‘Everything Was Forever’, for example). There are sudden shifts in tone and presentation, ranging from the sunny middle third of ‘Sunken City Portrait’ to the highly jazzy closer ‘False Alarm’. Nipun makes absolutely no attempt to welcome the listener in with something easy or catchy, instead presenting his ideas unapologetically and sincerely. This, right here, is what one would call ‘confidence’.

So, you would think ‘Preludes’ is a non-approachable set of songs meant for the discerning genius or the pretentious aspirant composer. But, somehow, it’s not. It’s still just fun to listen to. No matter what you listen to in your day-to-day, you will find something you can relate to on here. You’ll find piano-djent ideas if that’s what you like. You’ll find ideas from the last 3 Kendrick Lamar albums if you like that kind of music. What makes Nipun’s music interesting is that he doesn’t seem to coming from any hyper-specific style, and anything you find inspiring will most probably come from your ear, not his. He’s just writing interesting music and playing his fingers off.

 

Listen here.

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