Heaviness pervades the debut album by Southampton-raised pianist and longtime Ninja Tune PR guy James Heather. He read the news today, and oh boy, it is not looking great out there. Nonetheless, while the gravity and titles of most of the nine tracks on Stories From Far Away on Piano were ripped from the headlines, the core of the album's emotional weight came from within.
Back in 2008, Heather survived a traumatic car accident that left him in a coma with a mauled finger. He was off work for some time, and didn't know if he would be able to play quite the same way again. Yet, despite the raw deal he was given, he overcame. This seems to be reflected in some of the stories he drew on for inspiration, like the wrongfully accused man freed after spending 16 years in prison, or the would-be terrorist who backed out on the Paris attack at the last minute. A little change in perspective, these songs attest, can lead to huge changes in your life.
Regardless of its inspiration, Stories From Far Away is 33 minutes of distilled neo-classical piano, presented with minimal production. Its purity is draped with the immeasurable emotive nuance heard in likeminded works from Claude Debussy's préludes and Max Richter's 24 Postcards in Full Colour. The sound is raw and plaintive, yet quietly courageous, a soundtrack for all of life's humble triumphs. (Ahead of Our Time)