New classical music is a tricky thing to categorise. Is this neo-classical? Contemporary classical? How can it be classical if it's new? Shall we just call it new music? Confusing. Also, Hywel Davies has a vast range, veering from the decidedly abstract to more accessible pieces – so where does his music fit?
I think the answer here is not to worry. Just absorb the sound. Crisp. Dissonance.
Davies is a composer, sonic artist and installation artist who is striving to create work of an abstract quality which is open to interpretation. It's abstract yes, but grounded in emotion. Each note is delicately and precisely placed because it's important to put those notes there, not just for mere whimsy.
The tracks in this album have been created over the last decade, so it's more of a collection than a cohesive album. They explore a variety of themes and preoccupations for Hywel Davies, notably the exploration of “White-note” music (non-chromatic, diatonic music – probably best you Google that one) and freediving – as evidenced on Descent which runs for the same length as one of freediver Tanya Streeter's breaths. Oh, and there's glory here all right. Cold in the Earth is stark beauty, cold strings shivering alone in whispering emptiness. Clearly, this is not music you'll hear on Radio 1 any time soon.
If you want to dip your toe in new music then this is a good place to start. The variety of instruments and styles keeps it accessible while being challenging enough to prompt some serious chin-stroking.
Hywel Davies by Hywel Davies is out on January 14th through ASC Records