We first heard the work of L.A.-born, Berlin-based composer Dustin O’Halloran amid the bevy of meditative scenes in Sofia Coppola’s film adaptation of Marie Antoinette in 2006. His simple-yet-profound compositions for solo piano begged for our immediate attention, making the concept of becoming a fan almost an afterthought. Those pieces, taken from O’Halloran’s Piano Solos 1 and 2, felt instantly familiar, as if the young composer had been performing the soundtrack to our lives for their entirety. Disarming in their austerity, Piano Solos 1 and 2 were game changers, each a towering modern extension of a style that stretches back long before the real Antoinette ever walked the earth. O’Halloran has occupied himself with a number of projects since then (namely film scores and touring), but it’s the arrival of Lumiere that has us most excited. His third studio LP and first for the acclaimed FatCat label, the album sees O’Halloran teaming up with new-music ensemble ACME, noted composer and violinist Peter Broderick and guitarist Adam Wiltzie (Stars Of The Lid). The result is an impossibly warm, plaintive affair that, while more elaborate than his solo piano work, retains a demure quality nonetheless. Indeed, lush string arrangements, ambient guitar flourishes and subtle electronics are interspersed atop O’Halloran’s humble key progressions with a heartwrenching candor, expanding the composer’s palette at the same time they affirm his singular vision. (Look no further than “A Great Divide,” available for free below, to see that vision realized to its fullest potential.) Easily one of the most affecting collections to come from the modern-classical and ambient-music camps in recent years, Lumiere, which arrives February 22, is a must-hear by any measure, an exploration of sound and color that will be on our minds for many months to come.
“A Great Divide” (download):