Peter Broderick: Float
Listening to Peter Broderick's Float 2013, I find myself repeatedly coming back to one extra-musical detail in particular: that the first version of the recording—his debut album, in fact—appeared when the preternaturally gifted Broderick was a mere nineteen years old, a remarkably young age for music of such artfulness and, yes, maturity. Of course, such reflections are induced by the 2013 version as opposed to the original, and so perhaps one should keep that detail close at hand when listening to the album. Even so, for Broderick to have produced the album in its fundamental form says much about the talent of the now twenty-six-year old composer and multi-instrumentalist.
Issued in a limited edition run of 100 purple cassettes and newly remastered by Nils Frahm, the release showcases his versatility as a player, with Broderick contributing piano, strings, celesta, banjo, saw, theremin, accordion, drums, trumpet, voice, keyboards, bass guitar, and field recordings to the release, along with strings player Amanda Lawrence, who appears on many of the ten tracks. At the same time, Float 2013 is no exercise in self-indulgence, with Broderick often opting for sparse arrangements. Originally composed on piano in his Portland, Oregon home and then fleshed out during the studio recording process, the material is classical in tone yet, being pronouncedly melodic, accessible, too. As representative examples of the album material, the melancholy settings “Floating/Sinking” and “A Glacier” not only accentuate the delicacy of his touch but also show him to be a natural fit for the classical-electronic genre associated with artists on labels such as Gizeh, Erased Tapes, and Hibernate.
The longest and perhaps most elaborately designed piece, “Stopping On the Broadway Bridge,” fashions a pensive mood from piano arpeggios and extends into soundscaping territory through the addition of Skyler Norwood's atmospheric textures. Its ruminative soundworld expands further when banjo, glockenspiel, and Lawrence's cello join in, with all such sounds shadowed by the distant hum of sirens. But, in truth, it's sparser settings (such as “A Beginning,” which features a melodic motif that Broderick returns to in a number of places) that are the more emotionally affecting. Throughout the release, Broderick demonstrates an artistic command and control that one associates with the more well-seasoned artist, and Lawrence's distinctive string playing complements Broderick's own, making for a ravishing chamber music-styled set.