“In our times of climate change, when our environment is quickly becoming unfamiliar to us, what has become of that home? Oceans are raging, icebergs melting, sea levels rising… Is our longing for home, for a 'return to the same,' even possible? What are we longing for?"
So wonders Montreal pianist/composer Jean-Michel Blais in the new video for his stunning piece, “Nostos (feat Bufflo).” The track is named after the final section of James Joyce’s epic Ulysses, during which our hero returns home to a place he imagines will be the same as he left it. (It isn't.)
"Nostos" opens with flicks and twirls, short piano flourishes that appear alongside a swathe of icecaps and then foamy waves crashing against cliff walls—all rendered upside down. Blais' playing then seems to pause. A resplendent layer of pedaled piano floats to the surface and waves fill the screen. The pianist then returns with a string of continual arpeggios—not unlike Lubomyr Melynk’s self-designated “continuous music”—and as the waves roll, Blais emerges in the upper register, hammering out a brilliant melody that becomes the firmament to the ocean below.
The piano becomes scattered, eventually, while the footage depicts a single iceberg floating in free-flowing water—again upside-down. En masse, the project is a commentary on the breathtaking beauty of the earth and our inadequate approach to her safekeeping. There is plenty of hope within the piece, but Blais also makes clarion that we cannot continue on as we are and hope to keep our home unchanged. If we do not act, we may find ourselves scattered and living in an earth much different than the one we remember.
Michel-Blais' debut record, II, is out April 8 via Arts & Crafts.