Pennsylvania native Keith Kenniff's output as Goldmund has established him as one of the preeminent composers of minimal piano-based ambient music alongside peers like Hauschka, Dustin O'Halloran, and even Ryuichi Sakamoto, who himself once described Kenniff's work as "so, so, so beautiful". Hyperbolic as it may sound, Goldmund's newest collection Occasus may be his most exquisite yet. Where his previous recordings trod faithfully and sincerely on paths of dimly lit, polaroid-esque nostalgia, Occasus deepens the undeniable aesthetic that was hard-won over eight previous Goldmund albums, while expanding the palette to include desultory clouds of synthesizer and a tastefully distressed analog sheen.
The word Occasus means downfall, end, or the rising and falling of heavenly bodies. The title is apt in more ways than one: while the emotional tone of the album denotes bittersweet feelings of conclusiveness, it also perfectly soundtracks the quiet moments when we look up to the sky, and humbly relearn the smallness of our lives as cosmic objects churn slowly overhead with bewitching indifference. Occasus feels deeply personal, private, and hushed yet simultaneously grand, colossal, and profound. Remarkably Kenniff is able to capture micro and macro with equal fidelity.
Though he may not be a household name, Kenniff's evocative, distinctly American music has become quietly ubiquitous in the past few years, often appearing on NPR, in films, on TV, and in ads for Apple, Facebook, and Google among others. Recorded over the course of three years, the material on his new album Sometimes functions as a journal, documenting brief moments in Kenniff's day when he could turn to the piano as a source of solace and unending creative possibilities. Kenniff wrote and recorded everything on the album with the exception of the track "A Word I Give", which is a collaboration with preeminent Japanese pianist Ryuichi Sakamoto, who once described Goldmund's music as "...so, so, so beautiful."
In an interview with NPR's Weekend Edition Keith Kenniff discussed his appreciation of Civil War era music, and it's ability to covey "...so much story in so few notes." Similarly, these improvisations manage to be richly evocative despite their technical and compositional simplicity, using subtle details and dynamics to express what might otherwise be inexpressible.
All Will Prosper, Keith Kenniff's latest album under the Goldmund moniker, is a collection of 14 traditional Civil War-era folk songs and one contemporary track "Asoken Farewell." Kenniff has always been a student of Civil War history and culture. From the Ken Burns documentary series on PBS to Bill Carothers' solo piano album The Blues and The Greys, he has studied and enjoyed the music that tied friends and families together in a time when the nation was being torn apart.
Recorded over a period of 5 years in various houses in Massachusetts, Oregon, and North Carolina, Kenniff's arrangements feel fresh and intimate, while retaining the wistful charms and timeless appeal of the originals. In part the album's intimacy is created by his recording technique. With the top of the piano left completely open, microphones were placed close enough to capture the mechanical movement of the keys being pressed and the pedals squeaking. Similarly the acoustic guitar is close-mic'd, tracing the sounds of his fingers scraping and plucking the metal strings. The result creates a rich, almost hyper-real environment, where the tiniest details are magnified and brought to the surface.
Famous Places marks the third full-length release by composer Goldmund (aka Keith Kenniff/Helios) and the second release for Texas-based record label Western Vinyl. A graduate of Berklee College of Music with a degree in percussion, Kenniff focuses his Goldmund project instead on solo piano, mixing the delicate composition of composers such as Erik Satie and Harold Budd with a quiet and elegant simplicity.
Along with Goldmund, Keith Kenniff also fronts his other popular electronic-music moniker Helios, and his music can be heard in many feature films, documentaries and television for directors such as Harmony Korine and organizations such as BBC, MTV and many more.
Two Point Discrimination marks Goldmund (aka Keith Kenniff)'s 3rd release after his highly praised debut Corduroy Road and followup 7" The Heart of High Places for Type Records. Part of Western Vinyl's Portrait Series, this collection features 11 short pieces for solo piano focusing on the sensation of touch and its relationship to sound. In the spirit of composers such as Howard Skempton and Morton Feldman, composition and sound culminate together as space is something that is dealt with directly. And interpretation along with improvisation are both tools that blur the lines between composer, performer and listener.