There are several things you can do when listening to Tanner Menard’s Deepest Indigo. You can delve into its construction using custom piano tunings and the midi piano emulation software Pianoteq; you can play with the idea that the album is meant to be shuffled so that not only does it reorder in a sort of aleatoric way, but the track titles change to create differing miniature poems; you can think about how this music was created in 2009 but held back by the composer until 2016; or you can put this on, perhaps quietly, and let Menard’s compositions, fuzzily soft at the edges but concentrated and intense at their core, ease past you. You’ll certainly come around and give it attention as the unique tunings push at your acceptance of what tonality is and how it’s supposed to work. I get pulled toward it at “subdued,” where the sounds, with a metallic resonance almost like a hang drum, nudge just enough off-kilter–to my usually fairly pedestrian mind–to make me stop and try to make sense of it. As I hear it and become attuned to it, I understand it better. But what had been my passive participation for several tracks before it turns more active. Perhaps, in the unshuffled listen, it’s designed to lead you into “rainbows,” which cleaves to a similar tack, if not pushing those perception-of-sound borders even further. The accurately titled “deepest” has an ambient face but percolates with notes just below the surface. It’s a breath-slower of a piece, saving its energy for its final moments when it arpeggiates, then sighs to a close. Rolling notes empower “indigo,” its intensity measured in velocity as it spins through a minimalist cadence.
Deepest Indigo is a solo piano album at its center. But between the tunings, the effects laid in by the software, the artist’s own changing, expressive style, and its “please shuffle this” modality, it transcends that tag and becomes very much its own thing. If I read correctly, Menard has left music behind. If that is the case and this is the last we will hear, I encourage you to listen closely to this fading voice. It may not please all ears, but it certainly stirs the mind.
Available from Full Spectrum Records.