When I get burned out on breakup songs, it’s comforting to turn to music without lyrics. For all I know, the songs of Jason van Wyk‘s Attachment and Opacity spawned from a failed relationship—but there’s only piano and atmospherics to convey that. I can imagine that these are songs about exploring a distant area of space, if I so choose. The subtle emotion infused in the melodies of these piano-centric, minimalist instrumental albums allow for the first interpretation (should you so choose), while the careful use of negative space and the icy sheen provoke the second interpretation. Both albums are comforting, enveloping listening experiences.
Attachment is technically a re-release of a 2016 album, but it’s new enough for me. The album’s compositions focus on minimalist (but not abstract or structural/12-tone) piano work; there are pad synths and other background noises, but van Wyk’s piano playing is central (as in highlight “Before”). In other places the ambient mood shares time with delicate piano patterns (“Stay,” “Found”). Closer “Depart” signals a direction that he would follow on Opacity, as the strings and synths that compose the bulk of the tune create a misty, ethereal landscape for the listener to explore. The piano does (gently) reassert itself before the tune ends, because this is a piano-centric album. The focus on piano allows melodies to be developed, giving many of these songs individual character.
Opacity is less piano-centric; songs named “Shimmer,” “Glow,” and “Weightless” give a sense of the vibe van Wyk is going for on this album. “Shimmer” holds up to its name, as the composition is a gauzy, slow-moving aura. “Glow” is a sad kind of luminescence, more like Gatsby’s light than a Christmas tree; “Beneath” is also a sad, slowly pulsing idea with little piano.
The focus on the rest of the composition outside the piano gives this particular album less forward motion than Attachment, but plays up the coherence of the whole work. As a result, Opacity is more moving to me when I listen to it all the way through; it is a brooding, icy, yet exploratory work. I can easily see it as the soundtrack to a lonely-space-exploration film.
These two albums work together to show off the impressive compositional skills of Jason van Wyk. If you’re interested in contemporary composition (a la Nils Frahm), minimalism, or just “relaxing music,” these two albums will do a lot for you. Highly recommended.