Review: Rachel Grimes – “Eights”

Composer/pianist Rachel Grimes orchestrates a soundscape of wonder on “Eights,” a digital one-off also available on the compilation accompanying Oxford American’s new edition on Kentucky music. The song was released, alongside sheet music, earlier today on Bandcamp.

The premise for the piano etude is simple and one does not have to wonder long if the title is a reference to the mathematics of the composition’s time signature, which sits at its center. But time is only what you make of it, and Grimes swings for compositional grandeur, even though she appears solo throughout and is not backed – as she was, most infamously, in the Louisville outfit Rachel’s – by a chamber group. One of Grimes’ hands is ever hammering out a 4/4 measure – a 1-2, 1-2 twinkle of piano that’s heartbeat-steady – that acts as the song’s spine, as anchored as a blues scale. But what she does with the other hand is the reason you keep tuning in: offering beautific melodies and Impressionist flights that call to mind the wonder of a good storm, though clearly less gray.

The piece is short, just a hair over two minutes, and will leave the listener clamoring for more. And for good reason. The core members of Rachel’s – Grimes, violist Christian Frederickson, and multi-instrumentalist Jason Noble – were/are all giants of chronicling the flutter of American hearts; few were better, in their heyday, of carving away at the majesty of human emotion. (Few also can lay claim to launching an entire genre, as they did with post-classical.) Noble passed away in August 2012 and Frederickson focuses largely on the theater, leaving Grimes to carry the mantle of recording this heady brew of classical proportions and indie-rock sensibilities. On “Eights,” as on The Clearing, as on her year-defining collaboration with Astrid, she continues to dazzle.

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