Carl Liungman is a virtuoso who has magic on his fingertips. His control and composure over the prime instrument of ivory is breathtaking to listen to. The phrasing is essential, creating voices of the memories that populate his albums. This is his latest album, Shine.
You can find the mastery associated with Shine in the first track itself. It is a moment to behold, crescendos of sound, and a new birth. It flutters and breathes, like the organism it claims to observe with splendour. The metamorphosis is something you can observe in several tracks that way. The next track, Being, completes this kind of cycle of sound. You can hear how the intensity prepares to vary for each moment, creating special, curated scenes with each piece of phrasing. Carl Liungman knows what he does requires laser like precision.
You’ve released two albums this year. Was this in persistent state of flow or something that has been pending for a while?
As a matter of fact, I released my first album, BORN in 2020. I re-released it earlier this year on my own label, Caliu Piano.
BORN was kind of a late bloomer album debut for me where I wrapped up the musical style I developed during the 2010s. Before the making of that album I wrote music for short film, published piano songs on SoundCloud and played live on smaller occasions.
The music on my new album SHINE was already during the BORN creation taking shape in my mind. It was like many years of creating music suddenly started to flow and rush into releases. While BORN was a grand piano/big studio recording with more outgoing energy, SHINE became my intimate personal diary project so to say. Quiet piano music spontaneous recorded in my home on a smaller piano.
Songs like Essence are much heavier to listen to. They are scales and phrasing of tracks, where the pauses create the depth and pristine sterile bed of growth in the song. Songs like Faith build the tempo to a story, where two tales coincide, by virtue of circumstance. The textures employed are truly what bring the levels of dexterity in which Carl Liungman is excelling with his talent.
Through instrumentals alone, you tap into several emotions. What is your approach after you sit in front of the piano, for compositions?
First, I have to tell you that it sometimes can be hard for me to cope with my instrument, the piano. I am emotion driven in my performance and creation of music. For me, the composing process is connected with the desire to play. Of course, I can rehearse scales and practice technical necessities, but my compositions appear like impulses from melodies or chord combinations that suddenly comes to me when I sit down by my piano.
I can create an energetic moment in playing with great energy and from this energy catch themes sometimes that I hear is a new piece of music to work with. I often watch the keyboard while playing and quite graphically discover new chord combinations or melodies based on chord progressions. Rhythm is also of great importance to me in this process. Minimalistic repetitive patterns that haunt me and lead me into new emotions during the creation process.
The tactics for Alive and Dream are slower, more deliberate moments. Instead of amplifying or building to the crux of the song, we feel the pulse dampen and uniformly segregate within this track. It is where this album comes alive, like a breathing motion that is hyperbolized by certain feelings. The ruminations of a master pianist and composer are felt with each song of this album. The purpose and creative folds that keep opening up with each song are the crafted flower petals that nurture emotion. Carl Liungman just helps in ingeminating these with finesse.
Your title track for Born has an intensity that can capture the most surreal moment that humans experience. How did you translate such complexity?
I often work with simple harmonic structures and arpeggios and want the listener to be mesmerized by the repetitive patterns together with often sweet, catchy melodies. In the chord progressions, I put a few disturbing tones to create something like a spice or uncertainty for the listener. The track ’Born’ is like breathing or sea waves in the flowing of the arpeggios. And there had to be a melody appearing on top of these waves. It just came to me while playing.
With Essence in your latest album, Shine, you are penning a story with the phrasing. Is this the most taxing to perform due to the emotional connotations?
Good remark and question. Yes.”Essence” is one of the pieces on the Shine album that is very special to me, as it derives from my way of improvising to create piano compositions. In “Essence”, I work with ready-made chord progressions but let my upcoming feelings in the moments control the performance, the phrasing and the musical directions harmonically. I have a harmonic framework, but I am searching my way forward, and the finish line appears suddenly without notice. It is the essence, the core of my way of making music.
Effects in Rare and Salvage come from the delicate, purposeful and poignant traces of retention. This is where an experienced and relatively newer musician would differ. The blanks between the notes feature most of the emotional depth. Away marks the departure that is portrayed so well. It is a picturesque, fleeting image that has dynamics in volume and intensity of playing. The shift in volume and gentle synchronizing bring about the desired percolation such a moment needs on an album like this.
Are there any collaborations coming our way? Another album or live shows?
In January 2023 I will do some piano concerts in Sweden with music from my two albums BORN and SHINE. I will have an official release of SHINE in Malmö in Southern Sweden, the town where I grew up.
I would love to cooperate with a cello player. Also, I am looking for a collaboration with a singer to make soundscapes suitable for film or gaming, musical minimalism in kind of folklore style with piano and voice.
Lately I have been working on a piano concerto for solo piano where 19th century virtuoso style blend with minimalism and modern piano. It is to be released in 2023. I also work on songwriting and have a couple of pop songs ready for collabs or own releases. I do sing myself, so maybe I might surprise with a singer/songwriter piano album some time in the near future. You never know.
As you culminate this brilliant effort, you understand that it is years of experience, clarified sound coming together. It might sound like a composed soundtrack now, but it has definitely gone through several iterations to get here. Carl Liungman is the talisman your playlist needs for a soothing departure into a dream. Listen to his album here: