Though still driven by the lush, spacious and delicately beautiful melodies of founding pianist Wells Hanley, Bodhiheart’s exquisite second album Out of Doors: Meditations For Piano and Nature offers a radically and dynamically different sonic vibe than its critically acclaimed debut project Love Rules.
The first collection was fashioned as a dual project featuring the emotionally compelling melodic/harmonic interactions and conversations between Hanley and cellist Noah Hoffeld. Having played together in various NYC ensembles, the two created Bodhiheart out of their mutual passion for meditation. They enhanced their free-flowing energies and mood swings with the subtle rhythmic backing of bassist Mark Egan and tabla master Arjun Bruggeman.
As transcendent as the duo’s chemistry was, Bodhiheart can now be appreciated as more of an concept with different manifestations than an actual group with constant membership. The shift in tone from Love Rules to Out of Doors, an aptly titled paean to the wonders of nature, is dramatic, although some of the titles on the first album (“Lilies of the Field,” “The Gardener”) hinted that the musical love expressed there was, at least in part, between human beings and our natural surroundings.
Although Hanley could have easily presented these 12 meditative and impressionistic, highly improvisational pieces on solo piano, he keeps the dual aesthetic of Bodhiheart going in an unexpected and ultimately transcendent way. He partners with Matt Wyatt, a multi-talented poet, producer, mixing engineer and soundscape artist who creates relaxing yet sonically intricate foundations covering a multitude of natural environments for Hanley add his intuitive and soulful magic to.
Wyatt grew up enamored with free jazz improvisations, field recordings, percussion and poetry. He and Hanley began their collaboration over a shared love of poetry, and the pianist cites the poems of Rumi as the key thematic factor for Out of Doors. He says, “Rumi wrote about the ecstasy of being in nature . . .anywhere just beyond the noise of the world, in communion with the Self.” Hanley adds that each of his improvisations was recorded after a time of meditation and emerged from that type of profound silence, which “is both utterly still and joyously ecstatic.”
Some tracks, like the gentle, reflective opening track “Departure” and mysterious “Derecho” feature hypnotic sounds that are upon first listen challenging to identify specifically, while others, like the sparsely played yet eloquent and graceful “First Sign of Spring” (crickets), softly melancholy “The Rainy Season” (rain) and sweetly hopeful (yet with remaining dark edges of night) “Daybreak (The Sun)” (cheery bird calls) offer a steady stream of specific illustrative nature sounds as accompaniment throughout.
As we immerse deeper through these inviting musical doors Out of Doors, we realize the duo is pulling our hearts and senses gently along to experience a full journey through many of nature’s great wonders. These include an exploration of the “Migration” of birds (via a blend of a dark piano motif and the constant movement of ocean waves), a piano interpretation of the bleakness of winter juxtaposed with newly flowing water (“Snow Melt”), the multi-sensory, simultaneous summery feeling of “Ocean, Sand, Skin” and the thunderous yet physically and spiritually refreshing power of a grand and ominous “Summer Storm.” Hanley and Wyatt also look to the heavens for inspiration on pieces like “Midnight (The Moon)” (as perceived while out in the woods, with a sonic swirl of crickets and hooting owls) and “Other Worlds,” which engages our imagination with haunting atmospheric droning sounds beyond the cautiously optimistic piano explorations.