Review Summary: A testament to what one individual can do with nothing but an instrument and an imagination
Deep within the chaotic, meteorologically ruthless heart of winter, I invite you to shake the snow off your boots and to wisp the chill off of your frost-bitten cheeks by Rachel Grimes’ hearth. Here, you don’t need to gaze into the scantily lit embers of a long-dwindling flame – you are instead entreated to one of the most alluring and sensually tangible classical works in recent memory. Book of Leaves
will carry your mind to a place where you can smell freshly cut blades of grass, and all overtop of vivacious, morning time melodies that aurally channel the color green. You will feel, however briefly, the emerging sun plant its first kiss of the season on your skin. As the ascending and descending notes surround you with comfort, your senses will become entirely engulfed by this amazing and often overlooked gem.
Before you let your mind wander into the eternally harmonic Book of Leaves
though, I implore you to consider the magnitude of this piece. Performed with nothing but a piano (save the sparse natural samples and outdoor sound clips) the album is a testament to what one individual can do with nothing but an instrument and an imagination – and the results are nothing short of astounding. Classical music is often inaccurately perceived to be a lost art, an outdated genre that died with the likes of Bach and Mozart. While myths such as this are more common amongst the musically uneducated, artists like Rachel Grimes are still doing classical music a valuable service by reinstating the genre’s presence through the power of instruments – which, as any great musician knows, doesn’t need a vocalist to have a voice. That’s where Book of Leaves
comes in, with Grimes’ unassuming talents that prove capable of crafting dense atmospheres and lush melodies that will speak to anyone who lends the album an ear.
Often, instrumental works are marred by the ambiguity of clashing dissonance, noisy feedback, overcomplicated ambiance, or in some cases, just poor recording techniques. Book of Leaves
suffers from none of these ailments, presenting itself straightforwardly and proudly for what it is. Even in its brazen confidence, few flaws can be found in what can only be described as a pure, elegant bliss. The cheerful ‘Every Morning’ puts a bounce in one’s step with the way that its beautiful and texturally detailed soundscape can be experienced with such clarity – a pleasure that does not abandon the listener for the recording’s whole duration. Then there’s the way that ‘The Corner Room’ begs you to reminisce with it, recounting old friends, childhood homes, and essentially anything in black and white so long as it’s a memory. ‘Far Light’ sounds uncannily like dawn – with intermittent ice-tinged piano notes that resemble frost cracking and fragmenting, preparing to melt into droplets of dew upon a hill that is just now beginning to reflect the light of the morning sun. From start to finish, Book of Leaves
takes the most vivid of pictures – the most tangible of senses – and puts them to music through Grimes’ gorgeous piano passages.
The beauty of the album, however, isn’t in what it manages to conjure up in any one person’s
mind, but rather that it sparks some kind of poignant reaction in all of us
. Grimes’ unadulterated music is the kind that is left wide open to interpretation; true art. Just because ‘She Was Here’ beckons thoughts of solace to this reviewer doesn’t mean that it won’t paint a bleaker picture for the next person who listens. Outside of a few clear motifs – the outdoors, spring time, and nature – everything else is a clean slate waiting to be written on with your
emotions and memories. How you receive Book of Leaves
depends upon your personal thoughts and feelings, and with Rachel Grimes’ stunning compositions playing in the background, they are sure to be insightful and warm.