The Canadian label Moderna, which originated as a digital only label inaugurated by a quartet of releases back in March 2015, brings about the re-issue of Tom Adams’ “Particles” album. Originally self released back in 2014, Moderna have dusted it off and given it a new master courtesy of Martyn Heyne (an artist signed to the 7K! label) and artwork by Roman Moriceau. By doing so they have brought attention to a release that could have been overlooked especially in this current climate of focusing on the always increasing amounts of new releases.
“This project happened by accident. In 2014 I was just starting to get some attention on my songs, and was working in a part time job, travelling the rest of the time to play solo shows. When home, I got into the habit of unwinding in the evenings by improvising on my piano, playing whatever came to mind without thinking too much about coherency or style. All the synths, drums , piano parts, electronics and any other sounds were captured as single takes (with all the mistakes left in). Perhaps because of this spontaneity, I have found myself often coming back to the collection of recordings over the past 5 years. Despite now being a much more experienced producer / composer than I was in 2014, there is something about this collection of tracks that feel very raw and honest. They have a naive sense of exploration that continues to feel creatively relevant in my music today. It seems that sometimes the things you create when relaxed and not overthinking a situation can actually end up being some of the most authentic work you do.”
When you read artists quotes such as the one above you can’t help but feel amazed at the fact that this is largely the result born out of improvisation. The simple reason being how fully formed the pieces are. There is no over thinking, just a case of letting the music come out as a form of expression. Adams is correct when he states about the rawness and honesty. The music feels unforced and natural which explains why he himself comes back to it with fondness.
Proceeded by two singles “Particles VI (Shadows And Light)” and “Particles VI B (Navigators)” which highlight different aspects of the album, the full ten track album dropped on June 7. What it does is it highlights a new name to pay attention to, especially if you missed the album on its first time around and the importance labels such as Moderna have in regards to bringing forth an artist to greater attention. Earlier this year they set the scene with the stunning Richard Luke “Glass Island” album and “Particles” follows nicely in its wake. With the Daigo Hanada album “Ouka” out in a matter of a few weeks, the label are clearly on a roll.
What you get with “Particles” is a fluid mix of Modern Classical, Ambience and Electronics, with each style allowing their shape and form to merge with each other. Piano is naturally the dominant instrument and one that Adams clearly feels most confident with, with the electronics taking on a more minimalist approach which works nicely as it is never thrust into the listeners face. The piano is also the main instrument that changes it’s tone throughout the album. The glassy fragile tone of “Particles V” is different to that of the melancholy edge of the previously mentioned single “Particle V B (Navigators)” which, with its vocal elements and drumming (from Jon Callan) vaguely reminds me of the retro feel to Air’s “The Virgin Suicides” soundtrack. Synths dominate “Particle XI (Montreal)” with the mix of the flickering almost glitchy synths, beats, piano and ambient tones that work in loop like patterns. Once more it features Jon Callan on drums which adds an edge to the proceedings when he emerges into his own in the second half of the track.
Rather than just be stark piano pieces there is a nice undercurrent of Ambience that runs through the majority of the pieces that has a subtlety that both compliments the tracks as well as reveals something more to them. That said the final piece of the album “Particle IV” features the rawest piano sounds which are captures by close natural recording techniques that give a warts and all sound to the creaks and movement of the album. The track itself is a bit of a tease as it lasts a mere sixty-five seconds, and for this ambient fan it hints at where the track and the artist could travel if he lent more to the ambient side of the music. If I were to take one of the pieces to highlight the album to a potential listener, then it would have to be the track “Particle VIII (The Light Before The Rain)” simply because it feels like the perfect distillation of the album and in its three minutes and seventeen seconds it becomes a mini epic full of flourishing piano, soaring Ambience, minimal bass and creates a cinematic piece that shows both the flaws (by flaws I am more looking at the rawness that exists towards the end that feel as slight miss cues) and the more confident and expressive playing.
With “Particles” Adams with the help of Moderna re-announces himself as a artist to look out for. The album is successful in the way that is forever changing, but still having a fundamental core to it. The laid back, unhurried approach works well as Adams is able to produce music that both comforts the listener, but also engages their attention with by ever so slightly expanding their horizons.
“Particles” is available on Cd and Digital.