The music of multi-instrumentalist Peter Broderick should be much busier. Bouncing from guitar to strings to keyboards to horns (to name a few), and shifting from folk to classical to indie pop to ambient drone (to name a few), the expectation is that the end result would be music with so many moving parts that its main appeal would be as a spectacle of incomprehension. But the thing of it is, he finds a way to fuse all of these disparate elements into a cohesive cloud of serenity. And those disparate elements? They’re all there, but masked in subtlety and hinted at just enough for the ear to pick up on them without ever feeling overwhelmed. This is beautiful music, with a densely packed emotional center.
Let’s talk about that music.
The album opens with “A Snowflake”, a gentle wash of strings and sparse piano. The song’s opening statement would imply a long gentle bit of ambient. But then keys and strings pick up the heart rate, and the song begins to sway with more life. There is a sense of gradually gaining elevation, until it evens off and drifts away with some soft dissonance through odd effects and percussion.
Second song “Floating/Sinking” opens with (what sounds like) field recordings of birds chirping in the trees and boots crunching along a trail, while piano meanders in the background. Strings enter cautiously, but chase the birds away.
“Stopping On the Broadway Bridge” opens with a repeating phrase on piano, altered slightly as it builds. It suddenly drops off into a slightly ominous drone that slowly reveals itself to be field recordings from (it’s assumed) the Broadway Bridge. Banjo and xylophone pitter patter in the background as strings yawn loud and wide intermittently. It’s an unsettling piece derived from ambient dissonance. It elicits a sense of unease and foreboding. Piano nudges strings and banjo to the background, and ushers the song offstage.
After a brief pause, the song “Another Glacier” opens with the same solo piano, but with a two note repetition. Strings simmer softly to the surface. There is a sense of a far and wide plateau of quietude. Then the volume leaps up suddenly, and when Broderick’s soft voice enters, in duet with another voice, it’s almost shocking in how it arises out of nowhere, and the way that it enhances the peacefulness doubles down on its impact. When the vocals drop off as suddenly as they arrived, all that remains is the drone of effects.
The combination of “Stopping On the Broadway Bridge” and “Another Glacier” is the high point of an excellent album, and really puts on display Broderick’s talent to do so much with so little. Outstanding.
When “Something Has Changed” begins with strings and piano, there is already a sense of finality, even though it’s the first of four remaining album tracks.
And though it begins with the theme of string-piano ambience, it ends with effects and field recording voices that seem incongruous to the opener. But then it blends right into next track “Broken Patterns,” which builds into a vibrant string and percussive interaction that takes off and soars. The entrance of drums marks its flight, like dust kicked up beneath the flurry of wings.
The album’s final two songs begin with “An Ending,” a pensive piano solo that becomes a pensive duo with strings. When the album ends with “A Beginning,” the piano and strings rise up in celebration, as if an expression of joy for the music just recorded and a promise of more to come. It’s the right kind of send-off. It’s the best kind of goodbye.
While Float could be categorized as an album to play during the quiet moments of the day, that might not be a totally accurate representation. Float is the kind of album that makes its own quiet moments, that instills the day with serenity, no matter what has come before. It has an emotional presence that defies the pull of gravity. It exists on its own terms. It floats.
Released on the Type Records label, where the album can be streamed in full.