“Finding Shore” suggests several ideas for me. First, there’s the idea of finding the place where two environments meet. The shore of anything: an ocean, a lake, or a riverbank, is where the changes happen. Tides come in and out, erosion and sediment deposits transform the landscape, and animal and plant life transform dramatically. In simpler terms, it is the meeting of two elements, a place where an exchange happens.
On the album “Finding Shore,” the new release from improvisational pianist Tom Rogerson and electronic pioneer Brian Eno, we find the meeting of two different elements. Here, acoustic piano meets with the synthetic textures of electronic instruments. Like the land and sea, they look and feel very different. But on the album’s metaphorical shore, there is a place where they meet, interact, exchange information, and become intertwined with each other.
It seems that is Eno and Rogerson’s goal on the album. In a series of abstractions, the artists discover the place where these two forms of music meet. And if anyone has the experience to make such a journey, it is Brian Eno. The producer, songwriter, and artist has spent 40 plus years on the cutting edge of electronic music. In the 70s he pioneered the development of ambient music with his landmark album “Music for Airports,” which delicately layered acoustic piano with electronic elements in a composition that has become the gold standard for the genre.
But “Finding Shore” is a bit of a departure for Eno, whose compositions tend to be regimented and ordered, gently shimmering with the touch of a minimalist designer. Most of Rogerson’s piano parts steer away from this, ebbing and flowing in time and feel, exhibiting elements in opposition to locked-rhythm electronic music. “On-ness” moves gracefully in a the way only a solo piano piece can, but the track before it, “Motion in Field,” has to work around Eno’s pulsing synth textures. The effect, though, seems like a breath of fresh air in a world of redundant electronic music. The piece exhibits an organic liveliness that much of textural music lacks.
The first true ambient atmosphere we hear on the album is on “Minor Rift.” Rogerson lays some reserved piano notes over a rising and falling wall of sound. The wave of texture shifts and changes almost imperceptibly, its elements seeming almost infinite. When you listen underneath the piano, there appears at different times the crackle of distant fire or a muffled choir of voices. Eno’s mastery is at full force here.
“The Gabbard,” which directly follows “Minor Rift,” is also a standout track. The sound of the synth pulses is thick and juicy in all the right ways, conversing inside of a slow, rhythmic feel that eases the listener into a stupor. “Quoit Blue,” on the other hand, uses space to suggest a enormous world outside of the self, a place built on quiet introspection.
Although jagged at times, fans of textural music will delight to listen to “Finding Shore.” The whole album is ear candy, constantly changing and shifting as it plays with the timbre and feel of sound. The “shore” that Rogerson and Eno explore could be on our planet, or in a place unimaginable for human beings, a place where sound and music play a completely different role with organic beings. “Finding Shore” seems like it could be the closest thing to knowing what that would be like.