In the 14 tracks comprising Spiritual Data composer and pianist Jimmy Galvin evokes a sense of a mindful journey with no obvious beginning or end; that is to say the listener finds his or her self almost awakening in a timeless place where there is a sense of moving slowly and peacefully. No departure, no destination, no timetable.
The collection is a reassuring set of loosely structured piano miniatures. The pieces lean towards the minimalistic and are sparingly melodic. They form a cohesive whole in which the message, if there is one, is shrouded in the chordal underpinning and the general melancholic tonal atmosphere. Galvin exhibits a subtle use of space in the music. Everything is allowed to breathe. Notes and chords sometimes float as if suspended in a fluid with brief melodic flourishes adding the requisite colouring. It is the execution in the playing which adds so much to these pieces.
Spiritual Data is not an album which sets out to prod and poke the listener directly with ‘tunes’. It is meditative, contemplative and the pieces present themselves almost as aural canvases upon which are placed subtle gestures, gentle strokes and light flurries. Collectively the compositions offer an immersive listening experience, each piece with an apparent deliberate absence of traditional musical formal structures.
The individual tracks do not openly suggest an arc, which is to say that the direction of travel or even the duration cannot be anticipated. The tiny “Komorebi“ lightly weighs in at one minute and thirteen seconds, starting with a slow chromatic meandering before resolving into a soft major chord underpinned by a single low bass note. With the occasional gentle agitations around a particular chord or key we are repeatedly bathed in the Galvin favoured major sevenths and a blend of modes. The title track opens with a delicious atmosphere of trickling water or perhaps tiny wavelets and is gentle rocking motion. There’s even a fragmentary melodic echo at the outset which is like a whisper from one of the giants of the classical period. “4A” places a beautifully simple melody atop a pair of these soft chordal shifts. One could imagine Erik Satie quietly contemplating in his drawing room.
We are treated to Jimmy Galvin signature chromatic shifts and slides in the gentle lullaby “Sleeping Rainbow” which closes out in well under two minutes. There are some clear influences, several French composers from the late 19th and early 20th centuries for example, as well as perhaps more contemporary composers (Eiunadi and Richter to take two).
A lengthier sensory experience
If you have a taste for the gentler side of French piano music such as that composed by Satie, Ravel and Debussy, you’ll certainly enjoy Jimmy Galvin’s creations, but don’t mistake that statement as implying it’s an album of pastiche pieces. I hear Ravel and Satie in “Colourfield” for example but not to the point of mimicry. It is a lengthier sensory experience at well over the five minute mark. “Gravity Sleeps” is similarly gentle but shorter than one might like for a spell of deep relaxation. “Song For Syria” has a lovely sense of suspense and is redolent of the openings of many an improvisation by Keith Jarrett.
Spiritual Data is clearly stylistically identifiable as belonging to Galvin and not a pale imitation of anything that preceded the album. It has a timeless span rooted in both the past and the present. My pick of the crop is the gorgeous “Modern Love Song For the World”. The album was recorded in Bristol, England during 2019. More information can be found for Galvin’s Art works as well as music at http://www.jimmygalvinmusic.com
Lee Crampton 2020