In 2020 French pianist, and composer, Sarah Coponat started streaming herself playing piano on Twitch. This followed just under a year of releasing her music online. In late 2021 Coponat was playing live in venues. Roll on a few months later and her latest album ATLAS is released. This is her most accomplished album to date. The songs have a flow to them that wasn’t missing on her previous four albums but wasn’t this pronounced.
During a first listen I am swept away by the music. Listening to ATLAS completing even the simplest takes is almost impossible. I’m that drawn in the by the music. After playing the album on loop for a few hours while working I start to break through my initial response and I can start to really get an idea of the scope, and beauty, of the album.
It opens with the ‘Atlas’ suite. This trio of songs really sets the mood: they are light, vibrant, but with a hint of melancholy. Sometimes the notes linger in the air. Other times they are loud and bombastic, but they are always to the point. Coponat doesn’t waste our time. She is direct to her points. There is a section a third of the way in on ‘Atlas (Part 1)’ where the playing is incredibly fluid. It pulls you towards it like a black hole. Then Coponat almost stops playing. This allows us to take in what we’ve heard, and not to take it for granted. Then after we’ve come to this conclusion, off she goes away. Playing filigree motifs. At this point I think to myself “This is just the first song. What’s coming next?” This is a very good question and one I won’t answer in full. Where is the fun of listening to music that someone has overexplained? ‘The Bells’ opens with a wonderful, understated drone. Through this Coponat’s precise playing comes through. It is the most determined we’ve heard her, on this album so far. It feels like there is something she needs off her chest. Throughout ‘The Bells‘ it feels like she is close to explaining it but at the last minute she pulls back. It’s a glorious exercise in restraint. The centrepiece of ATLAS is ‘Kingdom of Giants.’ It starts off in a mournful mood, brightening near the middle, however, ending on a slightly melancholic refrain. There are moments of sheer adulation, but mostly it’s reserved. It’s just glorious listening to those dextrous fingers seemingly plucking killer melodies and motifs from the air.
There is something glorious about ATLAS. It’s full of that pomp that makes you feel glad to be alive. On tracks like ‘Galaxy’ or ‘Atlas (Part 3)’ Coponat’s music swells until it becomes all consuming. Then it just drops away and you’re left with these dainty motifs. What the album never does is disappoint. There is always something there to pique your interest. The tones are delicious. The emotion is there, and the melodies are luscious.
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