I think we can probably agree that winter has its share of sparse beauty. An unbroken blanket of new snow across a field, the last flakes of a passing storm dancing in the night, the muffled voice of the wind through ice-draped trees. On his debut release, Winter, Von Geistley captures that beauty in elegant, open compositions with a very distinct classical music influence. His style is clean, uncluttered, and unhurried; his phrasing tends to be short and to the point and often left to let its resonance patiently fade. Winter is a very emotional album overall, and Geistley shows a practiced hand in using meaningful pauses and empty space to amplify that. A prime example is the solo piano piece, “Once More Round the Orb.” There is no flourish or flash here. Geistley picks out pairings or trios of chords, places a touch of space between them, then folds in a slow-moving melodic line of single notes that take their time in coming. “Day of Rain” beautifully follows suit and truly embraces the long sustain of its notes. There’s a similar take on “The Long Goodbye,” but in that piece he accents the piano with contributions from harp and woodwinds. The woodwinds have an almost synth-like quality in spots, which is an interesting touch that catches my ear. On “The Hole in the Web,” strings take an already touching piano melody and pull it over into a space that’s infused with heartache. It’s perhaps the most directly affecting piece on the album–for me, at least–a song that I want to listen to a couple of times over. “Still, My Brother” is a potently sad piece, painted over in tones of pure lament. Chanting vocal pads fold in late in the track and suddenly we’ve gently shifted toward the edge of sacred music. I appreciate Geistley’s restraint with this element, as it would have been easy to overplay it and nudge a delicate balance into a less desirable place.
Winter is one of those albums you put on when you want to be alone with your thoughts, or to listen to with a glass of wine as evening comes on. It’s as calming as it is evocative. While there are a few spots, usually where Geistley brings in harp, that skew a bit too sweetly into the New Age realm for me, I’ve been consistently taken by his fluid, emotional playing. There’s a soulful openness, an airing of vulnerabilities, on display in each song, and it’s quite relatable. A gorgeous debut. I hope to hear more soon from Von Geistley.
Available from CD Baby.