Caught Live: Dustin O'Halloran @ Vortex Jazz Cafe, London
Despite the fact that a packed Vortex had long been sold out prior to his visit, Californian-born, Berlin-based pianist and composer Dustin O'Halloran, by way of introduction, expressed his surprise that he has “so many friends in London”. He needn’t have worried... The international exposure that comes with having a growing number of film scores to your name, collaborations with an impressive list of respected musicians, and inevitably the use of his music on TV adverts has created a quiet little buzz around this tour and O’Halloran’s latest album Lumiere.
Newly signed to Fat Cat's 130701 imprint, O'Halloran's music might best be described as 'indie-classical' - informed as much by post-rock, ambient and soundtrack influences as it is by traditional classical music. Although not formally trained in classical music, the man who recorded for a decade as one half of dream-pop duo Devics has embarked upon a solo project of sparse, melancholic piano pieces reminiscent of the likes of Wim Mertens, Max Richter & Rachel's to name but a few.
Joined in tonight’s intimate setting by a string quartet who add considerable depth and texture to proceedings, it’s wonderful to see these fragile compositions being brought to life at such close quarters. The clunking of pedals, squeaking of strings and shuffling in seats made this quiet acoustic music all the more human and organic. Claiming in a recent interview to experience synaesthesia – a neurological condition linking sound and colour - it’s unsurprising that O’Halloran welcomes visual interpretation of his music. Sadly, due to technical problems, the accompanying video projection wasn't working, but O'Halloran invited us to imagine our own films to fill the blank screen mounted on the back wall. This was hard to resist such was the meditative, abstract, elusive quality of the immersive sound.
While to some extent lacking the musical virtuosity, and often the emotional intensity of some of his contemporaries, this is undoubtedly beautiful music. You sense he's an artist still finding his feet too after taking such an ambitiously creative leap, but he is growing in confidence. This writer looks forward to seeing him perform again, although no doubt it will be in increasingly large venues. I suspect that for London, this was a one-off.
For a photogallery of the show, click here.