[13 January 2014]
Australia’s Preservation imprint has long been in the business of releasing beautiful works of ambient and modern classical pieces, which I always consume. Olan Mill’s fourth proper album, Hiraeth, sees him returning to the label, with a newly refined and polished sound. The atmosphere on Hiraeth is somewhat joyful, blissful, and, dare I say, majestic. The five pieces appear to be joined by a similar aesthetic of major chord strings, delicate piano notes, and a wordless choir.
Although the title of the album is a Welsh word with no direct English translation, which closely resembles a mix of longing and homesickness over the lost, the music on this 42-plus minute release is far from being full of sorrow. In fact, the nostalgia is expressed in a euphoric progression of neo-classical harmony, reminiscent of a requiem for the departed: both of grief and celebration for the places, souls and time. Of course, I am totally partial towards the moments when textural sounds subside and Alex Smalley begins to play the piano. These are the short and fragile vignettes, when the ambitious and the grandiose melt into silence. Here, without the soprano vocals, without the symphonic strings, we are left within. And the true beauty shines through, like a delicate ray in a torturous blizzard.