Published Sep 07, 2016While much has been made about Jean-Michel Blais' excellent solo piano debut on Arts & Crafts this year, another equally captivating record has unduly received far less attention. Grant Hazard Outerbridge's debut as Memorybell is ambient minimalist piano that is much less involved than Blais' — in fact, Blais' lovely album sounds positively baroque next to Memorybell's effortless calm.
For over a decade, Outerbridge has been a touring indie musician and classical composer, but in 2014, he was diagnosed with transient global amnesia, a condition that causes the brain to temporarily stop making new memories. His old compositions sounded "garish" to him, so he began work on much more sparse, gossamer compositions using one creaky piano and two microphones.
Memorybell channels the wandering and simplicity-loving spirits of Erik Satie, Brian Eno and William Basinski using short figures with so much space between each phrase that you almost forget the notes before were played. Outerbridge will play a few notes, then let them hang in emptiness for a few whole seconds before continuing the melodic idea.
While it's an interesting way to play with musical memory, this much silence requires a lot of patience, or a willingness to let one's focus drift. Fans of Eno or Grouper will be pleased with another addition to their playlists for meditation, studying or falling asleep. Some may find the lack of memorable tune or beat frustrating, but those with the right inclination will appreciate the contemplative spaces between notes. (Hidden Shoal)