Leah Kardos's new work Feather Hammer is a great 40-minute perspective of where the Australian composer is at in her current state of mind. Written, performed, recorded and produced entirely by Kardos herself (with the exception of "Repeater"; CD masterer Matt Roles played the cracking bones on that track), the album is very much like a classical suite (sometimes sounding as if it could have been collaboratively recorded by Massive Attack and Arvo Part) on her first love, the piano, and its mini-movements read like pages of a diary that go from a good day filled with visions of hope to days less inspired and more stressful as a student.
The pieces don't run into one another as they would in either a suite or some concept albums, but Kardos's piano is such a consistent voice that it forces you to see the recording as a full-bodied work with the piano in the role of Kardos herself re-telling her story up to now. The varied sounds of the piano (straight piano vs. the flatter prepared-piano) give sort of an artistic timeline between a classical and an experimental sensibility, as if to say that the constructed has now been deconstructed.
The sound of the instruction on "DFACE" (the voice sampled from a YouTube piano tutorial) seems to invoke a statement on tedious studying, but the piece has such a colorful chord progression that I certainly would have wanted to pay attention to that instructor.
One of the most perplexing moments on the CD is "Houses". Consisting of a very low-volume distant piano with random tapping noise in the foreground and what sounds like a ringtone towards the end, it is not only the shortest piece in the collection but the most atmospheric.
"Katerina" is another gem with a steady-pounding metronome beat and a great prepared keyboard conterpointing the straight piano throughout. "Concentrate, You" is very haunting and perhaps the darkest of these pieces with backward-looped chorus-voiced piano chords.
"Apology" is another spoken-word sampled track, this time taken from art class students at Bedford College. The keyboard has a separate dialogue and sounds disenfranchised from the randomness of the speakers in such a way that it speaks to those of us that never quite fit in. And the CD closes with "The Waiting (Reprise)", which gives a much more assured version of the opening theme with a more advanced sound and structure.
Leah Kardos is quite a compelling artist that has already made interesting music as the indie act My Lithium & Me, and Feather Hammer definitely sounds like the promising start of a career composer.