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Sleeping Bag Studios

"A stellar voyage through sonic reflections of light in the dark..." 

I mean…what kind of fan of music would I be if I just started randomly hatin’ on this gem, right?

It ain’t gonna happen folks. Not now, not today, not ever. It would be very strange for me to not enjoy listening to a track like “Prism” from Martin Graff’s brand-new album called Trips For Piano. Guy’s got a brilliant touch on the piano, unique and imaginative ideas, a wonderfully expressive and bold style of his own, and a fantastic grip on what makes melody move us as listeners. Truly, what’s not to love?  Graff’s got a gift – it’s been awesome listening to him use it all to the fullest like he does on the opening track, “Prism.

Phew.  I’m so proud of myself.  This was gonna be all about me right from the start if I wasn’t too careful – I was gonna start this up with the whole six-degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon thing, given that I’m the son of a musician, who just happens to be a piano player, and also the keyboardist for a good ol’ Canadian band known as Prism.  Small world right? I made it to the second full paragraph to tell ya!  Longest I could hold out, folks.

Anyhow. It seems like Martin’s got quite the story, and it seems like we’ve got about a tenth of it. In the notes I’ve got scattered across my desk here, revealed in the dim light of a candle nearly burned to the bottom of the wick, I can see a tale of how creativity and passion somehow nearly killed the guy.  I ain’t here to tell ya that isn’t true. I’m, in fact, sure that it is, and his theory holds water as far as I know – but I am sayin’ use your words there brother-man. It’s one thing to say that, it’s another thing to explain it in a way that we can tangibly understand. All I’ve got to go on here is that it eventually sends Martin to a seventeen year self-imposed exile from music before his return last year with the new album out.  Am I able to connect those dots?  Not one heckin’ bit y’all.  Don’t get me wrong: I know creativity and passion are tough beasts to wrangle firsthand, but as to how that ends up becoming a seventeen-year absence?  I need more to that story, and if I’m being real with ya, I think it’s fully to his benefit to tell it.

Perhaps another time. For now, I’m just gonna have to deal with having a gorgeous new piano melody to listen to, and enjoy the innovative and expressive way that Graff plays his instrument – it’s a tough life I lead.  It is probably fair to say that Martin’s single, “Prism,” will challenge a few of ya out there, as he’s not working within one of the most linear ideas you’re gonna hear this year, but there’s real beauty to be found by coloring outside the lines and being a bit more deviant with the way you choose to play music. This is how you stand out in the instrumental realm and approach it the right way; you’ll find yourself either noticing the stellar technique he plays with and dig that, or you might very well notice that “Prism” doesn’t just take ya on any kind of boring tour through a verse/chorus/verse type-structure. Obviously, the first part of that scenario goes down smoothly, and the latter half can be more of a battle to get some people onboard – but they both equate to the same key detail: people be listenin’ y’all.  A stellar voyage through sonic reflections of light in the dark, you’ll see the video Martin’s put together for “Prism” even draws on that theme, taking you through a revealing tour through nature’s visual splendor. I tell ya dear readers, dear friends, the beauty of piano and the perfect dose of light in the right setting? It can even make the most ugly parts of our planet like buildings and concrete start to seem warm and inviting.

There are moments where I end up wondering what’s being communicated, or how, like, for example, when you trip on past the 4:10-ish mark to discover a few more notes and tones piled up on each other than you’d probably expect, and maybe a bit of coloring outside the lines that may/may-not work for some of the listening ears out there without the full context. But, for the most part, I’d readily assume that most folks will be as highly engaged as I was in listening to the expressive way that Graff plays, and really appreciate the way that “Prism” seems to tell a story to us, even without using a single word as it plays.

Think of it as a gently progressive instrumental. Martin doesn’t shy away from the creativity he’s got – at least, not anymore after the aforementioned seventeen mysterious years away – and you can hear how a piece like this represents the cracks in the darkness he has experienced, how it represents the light that brought him back to where he belongs, rockin’ the bench and ticklin’ the ivories as he was clearly meant to.  He’s got a spirited melody and an inspired sound. Martin’s playing with renewed confidence, and clearly ready to make this next chapter in his story, life, and music career, count more than ever before.

—Jer@SBS, April 22, 2022

Jer@SBS spends every waking moment advocating for the incredible music made by musicians worldwide. Posting album reviews, podcasts, interviews, and an internet show for Sleeping Bag Studios has allowed him to live out his dreams by being an honest voice and support for the independent music scene.

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