Lena Natalia is a Chicago-based pianist and composer with four albums to her credit, including her latest and arguably most stunning work to date, titled Almost Home. One among relatively few women working in the classical minimalist genre, Lena takes her already perfected sound to another uncharted level. Applying processed effects to her piano while incorporating other minimal layers and textures throughout, the result is a style of music that might be described as a kind of classical noir. Comprised of twelve stunning compositions spanning forty-eight minutes, the album seemingly plays out like a soundtrack to an indie film, collectively echoing the hallmarks of both notable ambient and classical minimalist composers such as Ludovico Einaudi, Ólafur Arnalds, Johan Johansson, Philip Glass and Steve Reich.

Utterly perfect from the very first note, “Almost Home” swiftly opens with a swathe of reverberating, fluttering piano chords accompanied by muted string effects, making for an extraordinary composition that is equal parts ambient and classical minimalism. Permeated by a profound, almost wistful sense of nostalgia that characterizes much of the album, images of old records, dusty books, fading photographs and film projectors frequently come to mind whilst listening. Lena’s signature interlocking piano patterns once again characterize many of the compositions, as exemplified on such titles as “Leaving the Nest”, a ballet-like piece that exudes a classical romanticism yet manages to retain a mysterious sense of ambiguity. Garbled voices create a hauntingly ethereal quality on “The Gardener”, seemingly mimicking sunlight being filtered through a veil, as Lena occasionally adds a spinning accent in the higher registers amid the composition’s forward-flowing melody. A rhythmic pulse underlies a couple of compositions, including two of my favorites – “Acceptance Letter”, as well as the closing number, “The Stoic”. On this final piece, culminating emotions and memories seemingly stir beneath an overarching repeating loop and minimal accents, which effectively convey a continuous stream of softly muted colors.

Profoundly emotive yet curiously detached, these prepossessing compositions effectively maintain a hauntingly elusive, emotional distance between themselves and the listener. Never revealing all its secrets, the music leaves a lot of room in the listener’s imagination for interpretation, which only further adds to its appeal. Although presently underrated, Lena Natalia is worthy of utmost recognition among other great composers of our modern era, having quickly found her place as one my personal favorite pianists! ~Candice Michelle

Links & Purchase: Bandcamp, Amazon, iTunes, CD Baby, Google Play

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