Pieter Nooten – Haven (Rocket Girl)
Simply put, this is a stunningly beautiful collection of instrumental compositions by Pieter Nooten, broadly speaking in ambient/neo-classical territory.
Piano is the central instrument, carrying most of the melodies which are mournful but often intense. To my ears, there's some overlap with someone like Michael Nyman here and there, and elements of Steve Reich and minimalism generally, but really this is romantic music at its core. Music to move you, deeply, emotionally. Heart music.
This album is also part of a particular conceptual project, on which there's more background here.
“…Pieter Nooten’s all instrumental new double album ‘Haven’ is the third in the series of solo-releases entirely composed and mixed on the Mac Book Pro. Forced to disregard the frills of most hi-end ambient/neo-classical productions Nooten nevertheless produced one the most authentic and exemplary sounding CDs of this year. ‘Haven’ has the true mark of the contiguous quality and style we have learned to appreciate from Nooten’s previous releases, all the way back to his ‘Clan Of Xymox’ song writing days.
On ‘Haven’ Nooten sounds more introverted and world weary than we are accustomed to, sketching a deeply introspective musical world of heart-wrenching beauty, incorporating elaborate sound design and experimentation without over-producing the music or compromising his initial goals. As a rule Pieter Nooten sounds like Pieter Nooten: there are minimal influences by predecessors, external styles or genres. Nooten’s music has nothing of the contemporary obsession with traditionalist epigonism; his gaze is firmly fixed on the future, utilizing minimalist composing techniques as a tool to innovate, not imitate. Nooten is inspired by both his direct as well as indirect environment: the world famous Dutch panorama’s of deep blue shaded cloud formations, the cold and wet Northern European climate where most human emotions are suppressed and melancholy, but also a desperate need for beauty and aesthetics blooms. Nooten never contests his personal mark: a pensive sadness that delicately lies hidden within every single melody, sound and harmony: a profound melancholy that is intense and at some moments quite overwhelming. (A. Engelman, Amsterdam, 2012)
That's a striking way of putting it - "the world famous Dutch panorama’s of deep blue shaded cloud formations, the cold and wet Northern European climate where most human emotions are suppressed and melancholy, but also a desperate need for beauty and aesthetics blooms." A brilliantly vivid description and it contains good information on the atmosphere of the album which certainly refers to the yearning character of human existence.
Nooten has a long back story as a recording artist - check his 4AD, This Mortal Coil, major label connections and other details on this link -
On a double album with such scope (20 tracks over almost 2 hours) it's bordering on insidious to single out individual pieces, but I do love the suspense, and again the intensity, of 'Transit' - its restraint really is incredible. And special mention too for 'Slowed I/ Slowed II/ Slowed III', which place the piano in among subtle cosmic trails and orchestral hums. They are ageless pieces of music and are likely to force you to put worldly concerns firmly in perspective.
*Just to add that after being aware of the Rocket Girl label at arm's length for years, it's an absolute privilege to get to know their catalogue more closely. They're a proper example of a truly curated label.