Justin Wright – Music For Staying Warm

The sound of a cello has been known to dismantle the hardest heart. There is something so deeply soulful about the instrument that, even when offering pace, movement and measure, also offers pause. Like a breeze. Everything is moving, but also there’s a tether that locks us in the now. Cellist Justin Wright’s work on his new album, Music for Staying Warm, occupies a place like the breeze.

Across these nine tracks of experimental music Justin Wright establishes the sound that he’s developed over recent years. Blending contemporary classical motifs with analog synth beds the artist has occupied a niche that poetically smudges an indie sensibility – fingerprints and human scale reference – against the typically polished sweeps of the classical game.

Following the sequence of album tracks there are moments of reflection, meditation, and intimate scope. However, there are also moments where gentle spikes in momentum flush passion through the heart. Things aren’t all simply beautiful, or pleasing. There are challenges, rolling waves of energy to navigate. The slow swell of things elevates and also increases depth. So whilst track titles like ‘Drone I: Meditation’, and ‘Drone IV: Breath’ exist – this isn’t an album that’s designed for yoga studios and spa rooms.

A clue to the prism that Wright shines light through comes from the fact that the numeric titles of the three ‘drone’ tracks appear out of sequence. We’re left to fathom the reason and shapes of meditation, breath, and flutterings. We’re left to join lines between constituent aspects of the constellation. It’s in this process that Justin Wright’s work is most compelling. He leads us to the edge, points to the landscape, but how we negotiate the journey, how we read the signs is up to us. He opens dialog, he does not preach.

Wright’s EP, Pattern Seeker, released in 2017, placed a marker within genre that was his own. It was a release that led Wright to share stages with Colin Stetson, Hauschka, Mount Eerie, and Bing & Ruth. It was also an EP that set the trajectory which means Music for Staying Warm shouldn’t be as surprising as it is. There were clues as to what we could expect.

But there are surprises, many of them, in this album. Justin Wright sets out challenges and reassurances. He requests engagement at a higher level. Intellectual measures are met – but it’s the abstract, emotive quality that bypasses analysis, and which lands us in the space between thoughts. We’re in touch with our feelings. It’s disarming, and at times deeply blissful.

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