Pêtr Aleksänder's debut album Closer, Still is an indie classical record. The London-based duo of Eliot James and Tom Hobden have each forged successful music careers respectively over the past decade, but this is the first project they can call their own.
For James, who has produced albums for countless well-known artists, Pêtr Aleksänder is free from the constraints of what he's used to. "We're not thinking about which track would be good for radio, but more like ‘this piece is really beautiful, it would probably work really well in a film'", he offers.
Each album track grew organically from the seed of a melody or chord pattern. "Working in this genre is so much more freeing," says Hobden, who rose to fame during the mid-‘00s UK indie-folk explosion as a founding member of Noah & The Whale. He praises the fluidity of crafting instrumental-only music. "Our pieces naturally segue into each other. You finish a track and follow where the music leads from there."
Closer, Still builds imaginary landscapes from piano, strings and subtle undercurrents of electronica. Awash with cinematic elements, it moves through fantasy, romance and sci-fi worlds, while the LP's dramatic arc packs in twists and turns across 11 lush, invigorating tracks.
Album opener ‘No Better Time' sets the pulse of the album with a mechanical ticking clock, while ‘Fictitious' is a minor key mystery with searing strings that help to portray "something otherworldly". ‘Bells' is a warm and soothing string-strewn piece that, coupled with the lullaby-like ‘A View From Above', really captures the record's self-described "midnight feel".
The album was recorded at West London's Eastcote Studios and one track, ‘Sans Souci', features the incidental sound of French school children on a visit to the historic recording mecca. "We just spontaneously stuck a microphone out of the window and recorded the ambience," recalls James.
‘Hindberg' also has its own story to tell. "The track was inspired by a piano that was given to our friend Nikolai Torp Larsen. The piano was passed on as a gift to him from a dying man. It's a lovely old piano and has a great feel and sound to it."
Elsewhere, haunting aquatic fantasia ‘A Walk on The Seabed' is brought to life by a breathtaking piece of video art from BAFTA-winning filmmaker Martina Amati. "Martina's innovative film features amazing footage of free divers, which really encapsulates the mood of the track," say the band. Martina says of her collaboration, ‘Outside I try, I pretend, I lie. Underwater I am. With Under I wanted to share this experience with others. Eliot and Tom saw my work installed at the Wellcome Collection and asked me to use imagery of my work, ‘Under' for "A Walk On The Seabed". I loved the cinematic appeal of the track and it was interesting to let my images flow into a new soundscape, seeing them forming different shapes, like sea waves.'
"I like the idea that there's a sense of movement in the name and mood of ‘Closer, Still,'" says Hobden of the track. "The idea of being closer to something – ever closer to achieving something… it's like everything's a work in progress."
For Hobden, CLOSER, STILL is only just the beginning; "it's the toe in the water, the setting out the stall of the world of Pêtr Aleksänder." Ask both artists what they would like to be doing in ten years' time and they would safely, this. James: "It's a natural progression. For me, it's just the next chapter."