Theodore Schafer – Portrait (Bridgetown Records, 2016)

The etch of a jawline, the curve of a brow, the particularities of a swept head of hair: all things that come together to define a person’s face for us, all aspects of their facial physique that make them uniquely identifiable. Sitting at his piano at home and musing over its keys in extremely intimate fashion, Theodore Schafer recites to us in quietly contemplative and touchingly melancholic passages the fading memory of her features, the drift from grace as those fleshly landmarks and anatomical specifics melt into indistinction.

The first of the two 10 minuters, “Garden Loop”, takes a windowsill gazing approach, lost in thought as the ivories tumble and tinkle almost of their own accord. Everything is pitched in the minor, fragile strokes falling out of the faint cassette hiss and resonant air that these home recordings possess so strongly. It ebbs in and out of view, deeper hammer strokes occasionally ringing through the mix with sonorous menace whilst the meandering notations recede intermittently into the distance before returning, tidal washes of resigned sound that dip in and out of focus, the vision we thought we had committed to memory in all of its exactness now finding itself dangled on the precipice of loss.

Inevitably we do descend, and secondary “Nola” shows us what happens when we finally lose our grasp and detach ourselves from memory. The endless procession of strokes is gone now, their sad energies lost in time to be replaced by an echoic fugue, an impossibly slow drone fog touched tantalisingly at its edges by creeping piano fragments. Loss sets in deeply now as we collapse into obscurity, the moments dripping by with a depressing slowness as the music smears out; misery surrounds like a cloak, poking at us from its undefined edges with piano jabs as all semblance of light and life drains away with no hope of redemption in sight.

Depressingly intimate, to the point where it feels as though if we closed our eyes and stretched out our hands we could feel the keys beneath our fingers as though we were playing these sad tunes ourselves, gazing introspectively outside as the imprint of her silhouette on the back of our eyes fades sadly from view, time healing wounds with its standard overbearing erasure.