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Thomas Bartlett: Shelter

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Pianist/producer Thomas Bartlett has toured the world and worked with people from The National to David Byrne and produced the likes of St Vincent and Sufjan Stevens, with whom he earned Academy award and Grammy award nominations. But like all the rest of us, come lockdown he was stuck at home with only his piano for company.

He found solace in the nocturne, a form of music that had inspired him as a kid. As the name suggests, nocturnes are music for the night, originally dating back to night prayers but applied to music from the 18th century, when it was the music for an evening, presumably to promote peace and thoughtfulness. Chopin wrote 21 of them; Bartlett has only managed eight and each is named after a type of rose, the album playing as a love letter to Bartlett’s partner, actress and singer Ella Hunt, as well as to New York City itself.

Nominally it’s classical music but it’s aimed at fans of more popular and louder genres who want “something nice” but don’t want to be challenged by that intellectual stuff. It’s all gentle and rather lovely, and while it’s not difficult in any way, it’s also not cliched; he has in all senses put his heart into it.

Fans of the classical music might be a bit sniffy towards it but if it makes a few more people buy some more “serious” piano music, it can only be good. If you’ve never played a classical album in your life it’s a good album to start with and we reckon (we’ve not worked it out) that he sticks to the familiar 4/4 time that all modern music fans will know, and be immediately familiar with.

Perfect music if you want a calming tune after a hard day in your new home office, trying to work while the kids play unicorns and aliens around your desk.
As Bartlett himself says: “You (don’t) need something to overwhelm, you (need) something to calm.” In that, he succeeds.

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