Long-time favorite and categorically one of our generation’s most compelling and inspiring creatives – Juan Sánchez explores the topically relevant impact of enforced solitude and quiet time with this superb and aptly titled album Now The Silence.
Beginning with the stunning Very Young Old Man, Juan quickly creates this world of feeling and experience, a story told by melody and changing emotions alone. Already there’s a familiarity to his work, but you soon forget all of this as the music once again becomes about its intention, about you – the listener – and about escaping to somewhere else.
At around the half-way mark of this opener, the pace increases, the passion and intensity with it, and suddenly there’s a whole wave of new emotion as you’re swept away on this changing energy, and it’s powerful. It’s almost like the sudden urgency as inevitable mortality rears its head.
Luz de Luna follows and lifts the mood, injecting a little color and rhythm yet with a still contemplative, thoughtful and mildly melancholic aura. Then the title-track hits and we’re thrown into this realm of classic Juan Sánchez emotion and intimacy – almost as if we’re floating within the mind, witnessing a single wave of melody as the story or memory of this time in our lives. It’s a clever and poignant representation of the value or process of listening to the silence, as Jalaluddin Rumi declared, and inspired this album, “(the silence) has so much to say”.
Alma welcomes strings alongside the piano – a pair of melodies at war and in love all at once. The nostalgic and heartbreaking longevity of these new notes adds a sense of time gone by. Still the rhythm of the fingers, the descending patterns and the subtle yet striking changes in weight as the performance progresses, stay very much in tune with the natural heart and soul that first captivated throughout Juan’s music.
With Woolgathering, the silence returns, and the rising and falling pace of the heartbeat guides you through a single journey or repeating event; sometimes joyful, sometimes sad. Tolworth afterwards presents an equally hypnotic experience, introducing breathy vocals that deliver a sense of intimacy, humanity and current life.
Idyllic is a simple yet satisfying and again emotionally complex highlight – there are numerous stages to the progression, and the completed journey captivates and soothes in a profound way. Remembrance follows on with bolder energy but a similarly rhythmic embrace. Siempre too, welcomes back strings and slows things down, but keeps the beating heart pulsating at the center of the experience.
At the final hurdle, Blue Nights hits like the heartbreaking end of an immersive story – it’s peaceful, and beautiful, but something about the tone and movement of the notes and chords brings on a sudden wash of sadness; perhaps with a hint of relief intertwined. There’s a new threat of nothing being left afterwards, not just musically but in life itself, and that’s no easy pill to swallow. Of course, it’s just an interpretation, and on a brighter day – maybe the hopeful qualities of the music will shine with greater focus. I look forward to re-listening.
Considering the events and isolation that inspired this project, it’s powerful to reflect on all that 2020 was as the collection fills the space around you. We get on with our days sometimes, forgetting the impact of actions, the pain we felt, the lessons we learned. It’s good to move on, to move forward, but it’s also important to never forget what it was that changed our path – how we felt, how we coped, what we realized about ourselves and life and the world.
This album, as much so as silence itself, provides a powerful catalyst for reflecting on precisely these aspects of existence. It puts the breaks on, so to speak, and allows us time to breath, to cry, to be grateful. Undoubtedly a stand-out project from this tumultuous year – and one well worth checking back in with throughout the years to come.
Visit Juan’s Website for the album & more information.