When listening to instrumental new age music, sometimes it’s conducive to fully immersing in the artist’s journey when he/she explicitly explains the inspiration behind the songs or the sonic journey as a whole. Multi-award winning composer/keyboardist Holland Phillips, enjoying a creative and commercial resurgence since the mid-2010s of a career he originally launched in the 90s, gifted us with some fascinating background concepts and imagery for his two most recent releases.
Intrinsic to its year of release, A Momentary Pause (2020) reflected on the impact of the pandemic and how it forced all of us to take a moment (months, actually!) to think about what is important in life. Its dynamic 2021 follow-up Eleven After Midnight found Phillips extending an invitation into his creative process and the freewheeling sonic magic he creates while most of us are sleeping – using those hours to do his most meaningful work as a composer and producer.
In some ways, we can be grateful that Phillips doesn’t provide in words an obvious origin point for his latest multi-faceted collection Standing in Motion. That allows us to simply absorb, immerse in an enter a fresh and always intriguing and adventurous sonic universe where he weaves his foundational piano and synth melodies with a wide array of textures, atmospheres and grooves. Slightly more ambient and neo-classical than previous chapters of his discography, the ten track collection almost feels like a film score to imagery we can weave pieces of our own lives into, with Phillips providing the mood and a few infectious melodic suggestions as to what memories and dreams to tap into.
Song-wise, it feels most natural to start with the lead single “Finding Solace,” a gentle, soulful and deeply passionate piano melody graced at key moments with rich harmonic synth strings. Other tracks like the title song and “”The Bells of St. Moritz” sweep us in with synth orchestration from the get-go, with “Standing in Motion” flowing like an ambient dream driven by Phillips’ thoughtful and lyrical keyboard melody and “Bells” conveying on a sacred soaring feeling complete with colorful chimes, an angelic piano melody, whimsical flute and colorful orchestral shadings.
Two songs that collectively showcase the range of emotions Phillips taps into are “Chasing Daylight” and “Trail of the Pixies.” “Chasing Daylight” finds him at one point weaving a dreamy flute around a spirited synth melody, then easing into a lengthy, hypnotic acoustic piano excursion marked by a lightly exotic percussion groove and the occasional string swell before the welcome return of the flute. On the pixie trail, the keyboardist creates a unique and lively urban jazz styled excursion featuring a tight light funk groove under a trippy fusion of spacy synth sounds and motifs serving as melody, harmony and otherworldly effects.
We can also strive to read our own personal stories in the mystical and lyrical Eastern tinged ballad “Matters of the Heart,” the haunting flute and string driven reflection “Times that Bond” and the dreamy and sensual burst of optimism “Reasons to Dream.” Phillips also cleverly harkens back to the theme of his previous album on another seductive Eastern-tinged gem, the piano dominated “Hours Till Dawn,” which is presumably when he wrote these wonderful pieces as well. He wraps the set with the collection’s sole solo piano number, the appropriately titled meditational ballad “At The Close.”