"Coldcut have always had an interest in lush ambient soundscapes. When we heard this album is seemed a perfect fit with our newly revived Ahead Of Our Time label. We highly recommend that you tune in for a journey into an emotive piano landscape."Jon More (Coldcut)
"The likes of Ludovico Einardi, Max Richter, Joep Beving, Nils Frahm and Jóhann Jóhannsson are offering rich, mostly keyboard-led sounds, carefully, unobtrusively painted with 21st-century electronic technology. James Heather's debut album quietly announces him as a new contender in this world, a possible future heavyweight."Arts Desk (Album of Day)
"Shimmers on the cusp of emotive melody and ambience."Mojo
"Incredibly emotive pieces. A tender, touching album."Loud and Quiet
"Encircling, entrancing compositions."Clash
As a child growing up in Southampton, Heather's Grandad on one side of the family taught him composition and how to manipulate the tuning of piano strings, whilst his Granny on the other used to dabble with dreamy improvisations on the instrument. His own early compositions came soon after around the age of 11, also inspired by a love of Beethoven and Debussy and his older neighbours pirate radio station and have steadily evolved ever since with his Grandparent's spirit somewhere within.
Recently James Heather has started to release music via Ahead Of Our Time - Coldcut's recently resurrected first label and playground for free expression/experimentation. First came "Modulations: EP1", seven tracks which were written and recorded at different times and in various headspaces. Next came his debut album "Stories From Far Away On Piano", a more unified conceptual piece of work. The album concept centres on Heather's interpretations of real world news stories. The pieces ebb and flow, slowly enveloping the listener in a subtly subliminal fashion.
"The album is an appeal to emotion, a way of bringing the listener in, to evoke an empathetic response, this is my interpretation of stories I discovered. The stories themselves are not the focus, but the piano assimilation is, as the album is about viewpoint, opinion and perspective."
Perspective is something Heather has in abundance; he nearly died in a traumatic road traffic accident, leaving him in a coma in intensive care and then off work for an extended time. One permanent injury was his finger, which became skewed in the crash. He was initially unsure if he'd ever be able to play to the same standard again. "When I eventually started to recover I began taking my musical sketches more seriously. I found solitude channeling my feelings into compositions."
His publicity job since 2003 at Ninja Tune may have cut in to his own composition time, but has also proved a positive formative effect on his mindset, exposing him to successful campaigns for talent like Wiley, Kamasi Washington, Actress, Cinematic Orchestra, Thundercat, Young Fathers, Kate Tempest, The Bug and Bonobo, which have become a grounding anchor. "I've always liked to step out of myself and to become immersed in and help other people's artistic visions, I'm blessed to be able to do that as a job. I can then meditate in my own music in periods of downtime away from the noise of the industry. This push and pull has worked for me." he explains.
James Heather is one of the new school set of 'post classical' artists flourishing in the wake of the long, steady but recently accelerated success of figureheads like Max Richter and Nils Frahm, and the wider public's overdue but now burgeoning relationship with this varied genre.