Review: Sam Cleeve – Foundation Studies

Those sparse, unresolved piano chords drip sparsely at the start of “Gemütlich” like the soundtrack to a particularly contemplative scene in a Hollywood movie, in which gaping holes of quiet form the spaces in which thought can slot snugly into coherence, with strings flickering into life as the mind begins to stir. From here, the initial glimmer of realisation rises into a swell of romantic epiphany and climax; the emotion here is of grand scale indeed, but rendered slightly cold and inhuman by its glossy, spotless cinematics. Such an impression is also left by the likes of “Halogen”, in which violins dip and dive across the melody like birds in graceful and faultless flight.

But there are moments in which Cleeve decides to place dents in the music’s symmetry, and it’s here that the EP’s endearing personable quirks start to surface. “Metropolis” suddenly becomes punctuated by low, oaky knocks about halfway through (perhaps the sound of a muted piano string), through which a brash atonality and staccato leap out from the more fluid melodic movements. Meanwhile, the operative clunks that precede each organ chord during “Tenterhooks” offer a subtler example of the more organic inflections of Foundation Studies. Sadly these moments are far too rare. On the whole, the EP exudes a very refined, rehearsed sense of grace; it’s optimised for emotional impact, and personally I found that it struggled to really connect as a result.