I have been enjoying Liam Noble’s new album The Long Game immensely. It is on Edition Records (EDN 1129) and features a new trio for Liam with Tom Herbert on bass guitar and processing and Seb Rochford on drums. Liam has always been one of the most interesting pianists and composers on the UK scene, perhaps under-recognised, but certainly a strong influence on certain young pianists, notably Alcyona Mick. This new trio is perfect for Liam’s playing and the album is an important step forward for him, both in terms of the writing and the playing . There are nine tracks, all between 5 and just over 7 minutes long with a total length of 58 minutes.
What distinguishes the album is the way that Liam switches between acoustic piano and keyboards on nearly all the tracks; this provides a very special variety which is added to by the use of electronics by Tom Herbert and Seb Rochford’s ever inventive drumming. There are also some great compositions.
Each track is different, but Track 1 Rain On My Birthday sets the scene and mood for the whole album; it opens with a funky bass guitar beat supported by the bass drum which then leads into a series of short phrases on the keyboard that develop into an attractive groove-based statement. This is further developed by similar lines on the acoustic piano supported by the bass guitar and bass drum patterns, with the piano lines gradually becoming more complex. It winds down with a return to the short phrases on the keys and a conclusion that brings in electronic processing. It is an absorbing track.
Track 2 Between You and Me creates a very different mood; it begins with a thoughtful acoustic piano solo and then the eerie electronic processing and the brilliant drum accompaniment add to the mysterious atmosphere of the piece. Track 3 Unmemoried Man is much more electronic, but Liam uses the acoustic piano in parallel with the keys. It has an interesting slightly jerky theme that works particularly well in the conclusion where Seb’s drums enter. The mood of Track 4 Head of Marketing is set by the appropriately ponderous bass line that is repeated throughout; Liam mostly plays keys. In Track 5 Head First Liam again moves between the acoustic piano and keys in an upbeat track in which Tom and Seb really come to the fore and show that they are perfect for this new direction of Liam’s. Track 6 Head Over Heels is gentler track with Liam on keys that seem to be processed. Track 7 Pink Mice shows Liam at his most inventive on acoustic piano, while Track 8 Flesh and Blood has a very successful mix of acoustic and electronic playing. The final track Matcha Mind makes the greatest use on the album of electronic processing to create an atmosphere of mystery.
An interesting question arises. For which kind of venue is suitable for this new direction of Liam’s music? A concert hall? A stand up venue? A jazz club? Given the way in which the new wave of London bands and their equivalents in other cities are packing stand up venues, it would be great to hear this music in that kind of venue, perhaps in a double bill with one of these new bands. But it could work equally well in an intimate room in an arts centre or concert hall, or in a jazz club.