Isolation Ambient Music: Matt Stewart-Evans – COLOURS / SHADES

We are starting the week with another isolation ambient segment to help ease you into a week, though exactly which day is which can be hard to discern. We highlight British composer Matt Stewart-Evans who released his new album COLOURS / SHADES on 1631 Recordings this past Friday. The album is a soft examination of what a piano can do, with delicate compositions that slowly move between hopeful and slightly haunting. They are interesting enough to keep you on your toes, but don’t get overly experimental to turn you off.

We had a brief chat with Stewart-Evans to learn more about the project, how he keeps his projects interesting and much more.

Listen to the full project below and get your copy here.

1. How do you keep stripped down piano compositions interesting enough for length of a full song?

A lot of my pieces start off as short improvisations that grab my interest or evoke a certain mood or feeling, and I think that’s the most important starting point for creating something that other people are also likely to engage with. It might just be a little 15-second melody or chord structure at first but if that initial snippet has a quality that interests me, then that will often provide the inspiration to build out a piece from there.

I think a lot of what people love about other music also rings true for piano compositions. As well as the mood and melody of a piece, things like the changes in dynamics and tempo generally catch the ear, and with piano music there’s freedom to easily vary these elements. Over the years as a pianist I’ve also challenged myself to create more technically challenging compositions, and I think that has helped to create more virtuosity in my pieces, which will generally demand listener attention.

It’s great to borrow elements from electronic and ambient music too, to draw listeners in and better create certain moods – things like using big delays or reverbs, augmenting certain frequencies, adding subtle texture with synths can all really help add to a piece without taking away from its simplicity. I’ve incorporated some of that on a piano release for the first time with this latest album.

2. How does the title relate to the project?

The name COLOURS / SHADES reflects the wide ranges of moods and influences that make up the album. I’m increasingly trying to bring more of what I love from many different styles of music into my own compositions and as much as this is a piano album, it has shaped by classical, jazz, ambient, cinematic and electronic music, so the name seemed fitting to me.

3. Why do you think ambient music is having a big moment now?

What with the international lockdown over the past few weeks, I’m sure many people are changing their usual habits and perhaps looking at different ways of keeping themselves calm and grounded. Given the calming quality of much ambient music, I wouldn’t be surprised if more people have found themselves in search of more chilled and introspective music to listen to. It feels like a huge reflective and transitional moment in the world currently, and ambient music definitely has a part to play in the soundtrack for that.