Cookie Cutting with Andrew Hurst

Andrew Hurst appears at St Johns House in Devizes this Saturday, 27th May, courtesy of Devizes Rotary, for a Ukraine fundraiser, the same day he releases the solo piano album, Cookie Cutter Island [Do you know the way to], of which we’ve taken a sneaky preview of…….

I go to gigs, where the archetypal though talented acoustic musician prior to a headlining full band is kind of diluted by the memory of the band. Such is power in numbers, the combination and bearing of a band, or more so, an orchestra. Yet it takes a special someone who can hold you spellbound in the same manner, solo. But if you’re going to attempt it, piano is your friend.

Akin to a Scott Joplin recital, which you can envision ragtime of yore, of boxcars and trams running through New York’s bustling 19th century streets, Andrew Hurst undoubtedly has that skill to paint a masterpiece with sound.

Another textbook example is film-scoring, though the image is pre-nourished. There was a fascinating series of social media videos where renowned movies had the score taken away, and suddenly the impact is lost; the horror is hardly horrific at all, there is no thrilling suspense in that thriller. Shows how important the music is in film, and in turn the influence music has over us in general.

Andrew Hurst appears at St Johns House in Devizes this Saturday, 27th May, for a Ukraine fundraiser, where multi-instrumental goodness is promised. Yet while Andrew can make a guitar sing, whether filling a concert hall or busking in the Brittox, I’ve a sneaky peek at his strictly piano-based album Cookie Cutter Island [Do you know the way to], which, double-whammy, is released on the same day.

It’s as captivatingly emotive as a film score, and in a way, kind of is. This album is a sketch of music for a potential anime film Andrew has in mind. Now, I’m going to find it somewhere between difficult and impossible to write customary comparisons on this, my knowledge on classical piano is limited, but I know what I like, and that’s my angle! Cookie Cutter Island paints such a picture in one’s mind; a musical dreamcatcher, surreal, pensive and evocative, lingering in suspense and mood.

Andrew describes his vision similar to Disney’s Fantasia, I could argue against this, being Fantasia uses established classics, while Andrew has created his own. “Music first,” he explains, “and the plot came from the owner of Chard Bookshop, who sent a bizarre message; ‘do you know the way to cookie cutter island?’ My reply to her was the flow of the plot, that since has crystallised. Then the music was a case of arriving at the studio every two weeks with “I’ve no idea what I’m doing” but leaving that day with a track I wasn’t “allowed” to revisit: a sort of “enforced creativity” …. though each week later on I couldn’t stop preparing stuff once impetus caught up!”

This bout of when inspiration strikes, has the concentrated oriental narrative of Wu Cheng’en’s Journey to the West, with a fantastical and childlike expedition synopsis, involving Mitsuki, following her grandmother’s conspiratorial message to meet on “Cookie Cutter Island.” The tracks follow her progress, as she journeys to this mysterious place.

A fable filled with place-names associated with her mood, which also act as track listings, Temple of Regret, Tower of Fallen Heroes, or Sanctuary at Galaxywatch, the story is awash with samurai folklore, brimming with morals of love and honour. Such is the refined concept, it is an ambitious project, and animation is such a tedious process. Even if this vision doesn’t materialise, you can use the narrative in the sleeve notes, and almost see the animation flowing behind closed eyelids. The music commands this of you; as if I could reach out and immerse in it, at least how I would interpretate the music if I only had the artistic skill it warrants.

If forced to make comparisons, I’d offer movie themes, the Tangerine Dream fashioned Krzysztof Penderecki adaption for the Exorcist Theme immediately springs to mind, though Cookie Cutter Island is more graceful mood than chilling, and shards of Chopin, Schubert and particularly Debussy come into play. It ends on a high note, Bulls of Triangle Bridge is uplifting, and the finale Sanctuary at Galaxywatch precisely as the title suggests. Overall, it needs no visual stimuli, it’s enchanting and inspiring.

Pre-order Cookie Cutter Island [Do you know the way to]

Tickets for The Devizes Rotary Club Ukraine Fundraiser with Andrew Hurst, Saturday 27th May at St John’s House are £15, and include a glass of wine; available here

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