- James Heather
Invisible Forces: Exclusive Signed Purple Vinyl LP
Contemporary pianist and composer James Heather announces his second album ‘Invisible Forces’ out on the 22nd April via Ahead of Our Time, Ninja Tune founders Coldcut’s first record label. Influenced by the sensibility of electronic, ambient, orchestral and post-rock music but channelled through solo piano and his classical and jazz grounding, the album follows the release of the critically acclaimed ‘Modulations: EP2’, released in 2021.
Heather’s new album is about becoming aware of invisible forces around us to help deepen understanding of self and our connection to the world, from tuning into the natural world and getting lost in its patterns and energies to gaining more knowledge around ancestral lines such as the concept of epigenetics. It’s about looking that bit deeper into things, into areas that are not instantly visible but are all around us to achieve this. “Composing these songs gave me an anchor to feel more present in life after some troubling times and sent me on a journey to rediscover a kind of wonderment with the world. I hope the Invisible Forces universe will bring warmth to other people too.”
Recorded, mixed and produced by Heather in his new home studio on a refurbished Bosendorfer 200 grand piano utilising various microphone techniques, ‘Invisible Forces’ is a love story to the instrument that was his first love. A step forward compositionally from his 2017 debut album ‘Stories From Far Away On Piano’, the songs are grander, deeper and broader in emotional range and are developed through a series of improvisation techniques rarely seen in the often notated world of classical music. He describes his music as “pulse music” with each track performed in a single take and with their roots in this live improvisation, often honed on the road where Heather moves between tender to more propulsive, trance-inducing dynamics. He memorised each movement, then subtly adapted, adding more complexities and compositional dexterity over time before committing to the final take. His approach to the new compositions, finds him playing freely, with no metronome or official notation to recall or dictate the piece but instead using just his muscle memory, feel and instinct to decide where each track will go.
A deeply personal and autobiographical album, the first four tracks on ‘Invisible Forces’ come from inside, about life dreams that end up becoming devastatingly flawed (or not) as in ‘Meant to Be’, to complications around the sharing of grief and moving on in ‘No Time Limit to Grief’. Elsewhere, the loss of the “sixth” sense of balance in Heather’s father due to a brain tumour is addressed in ‘Balance,’ while Heather acknowledges trusting in his inner being to overcome life’s difficulties and look out once again with positivity in ‘In Your Spirit’.
Heather’s profound sense of awe at the big wide world outside of the self is considered in ‘Ultraviolet’ – the realisation that everything is connected in the universe, often in unseen ways, like a magic that surrounds us while ‘Forgotten Cities’, is a dreamlike interest in lost civilisations who built at one with nature and the stars above to cities today affected by war, nostalgic for peaceful times, hoping their city won’t be forgotten. ‘Invisible Forces’, the core of the album, absorbs all the albums messages, and connects different stages of Heather’s own compositional history from childhood to now. “I feel like one of the messages in my music is an activism for peace and equality for all, it is political but just done in a minimalist way. It’s about learning to love ourselves but also to love others even more.”
Throughout the closing stages of ‘Invisible Forces’, Heather questions the journey towards the end of a life, a feeling transcending perhaps even joy. A feeling of connecting back to ancestors long since gone and the realisation they might be effecting him now in subliminal ways as in ‘Ancestral Future Now’, to ‘Beginnings,’ which looks at the evolvement of the natural world around us.
Empathy and compassion are two key themes underpinning the album, in particular with the most personal song in ‘Hidden Angel’, a letter of forgiveness to a missing lorry driver who put Heather in a coma in 2008 whilst he was cycling and may not know that he miraculously survived the episode. A topic which Heather has never addressed before in song, he was given just a 5% chance of survival and he endured both the mental and physical challenge of adjusting back into life, changing him fundamentally as a person through many highs and lows as he battled back to full fitness, an experience that he now looks at as a positive. ‘I am lucky that at last my life is now filled with a joy I could never have dreamed of before, dealing with the aftermath of such trauma can take time. The driver couldn’t be located some years later and I always wanted to let him know I survived, in case he didn’t know, and to tell him I’m ok and that I hold no anger. The whole experience has given me an increased empathy to people that may be going through something heavy and to face mortality head on at such a young age, whilst a shock, has deepened my understanding of life.”
The album concludes with ‘Immortal Beloved’, a song about the treasuring of love, and a reference to the famous letter Beethoven, an early influence on Heather, wrote and never sent to someone unnamed.
The album artwork is by long-time collaborator Suki and is a representation of the many invisible layers of our inner and outer worlds. Inspired by the structure of earth, each layer or journey is connected to the next through implied space and time transcending to unknown depths. ‘Invisible Forces’ is as much about emotional growth as it is physical awareness. The album art interprets this tension through a series of contrary emotions where wonderment and solitude, awe and isolation, contemplation and silence can be found in equal measure. Informed by real world invisible forces, the art is designed using computational techniques. Procedural materials and the movement of light create hyperreal terrains that feel both familiar and unfamiliar.
Since the release of his 2017 debut ‘Modulations: EP1’ and the subsequent full length, critically acclaimed album ‘Stories From Far Away on Piano’, Heather has amassed over 120 million streams on the major streaming platforms, reached number 2 on the UK Classical Album Charts in iTunes, number 14 in the Billboard Classical Crossover charts and gained major critical and fan support; notable supporters of Heather's music include James Lavelle (UNKLE), Nils Frahm, Cillian Murphy, Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder (via his live session he did for them in 2021) and The Cinematic Orchestra, who commissioned Heather to rework their single ‘A Caged Bird / Imitations Of Life’ for their 'To Believe' remix album for Ninja Tune in 2020. His high calibre 2018 ‘Reworks’ remix release, featured reworked original tracks by Sarah Davachi, DJ Seinfeld, Marry, Lattimore, Aparde, Chihei Hatakeyama and Echo Collective further cementing his position as an important figure in the modern classical scene and also highlighted his adroitness at bridging the gaps of his influences. He has collaborated with Dawn Richard, Coldcut, Mumdance and Roger Robinson (King Midas Sound). In October 2021, Heather shared a double single release with Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto with a strings version of ‘And She Came Home’ in the lead up to the Coldcut '@0' ambient compilation on which he also played piano on their new version of the seminal ambient track ‘Autumn Leaves’.
- Ahead Of Our Time
- Vinyl LP