"Impressive impressions" - John and Steve Hackett's new album: "Sketches Of Satie". Review by Alan Hewitt.At last, Steve has finally managed to record an album of music with his brother John: a project long overdue in most fans' eyes. However, as always, Steve has managed to come up with something a little different. I am sure I was not alone in expecting an album of "covers" of the music which has made the various live shows Steve has performed over the years. What we have however, is something a little more challenging; an album of interpretations of music from one of the finest of the late nineteenth century's "Impressionist" composers: Erik Satie. As Steve and John both explained in the interview which they gave exclusively to us here at TWR (read this elsewhere in this issue) this is music which had a great influence on their early years. So what exactly is this music all about?
The first thing that will strike you as you listen to these pieces, is the sheer depth and deceptive simplicity of the music. The opening track "Gnossienne No. 3" is both balletic and enigmatic with an underlying sense of warmth which is, or so I am told, typical of Satie's music. "Gnossienne No. 2" follows and is similarly descriptive; to me it evokes images of a leaf floating on a pond or stream and being effortlessly moved by the current or by a breeze. The third track "Gnossienne No. 1" is without doubt an extremely familiar piece and I have lost count of how many films it has been used in. There is a distinctly Hebrew lilt to this piece which brings to mind the trials and tribulations of that people as well as hinting at their inner strength.
The "Gymnopedies" which follow are perhaps Satie's best known works especially "No. 3" which has been used in so many films, television advertisements and plays that it will be instantly recognisable to anyone. Here both musicians shine through in effortless performances which shimmer like gossamer.
There is a great deal of chromatic movement within this music and do not be deceived by the apparent gentleness which belies a hint of steel below the surface as well as a wry humour which characterises both the original composer as well as these latter day interpreters of his work. This is definitely an album which will both reward and surprise Steve's fans old and new and it certainly opens another chapter in the on going saga that is the musical career of Messrs. Hackett and Hackett - bravo, maestros!