Southern Landscapes

by AJ Hickling

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    This album also includes 107 snapshots taken by me, of some of the landscapes which inspired it. Slideshow while you listen!
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Nor'Wester 06:17
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West Coast 14:07

about

Vast and epic.
“Southern Landscapes” offers relief for anyone seeking something more than the fast food, fast fix, 15 second jingle culture, of the modern world.
I have spent the last 8 years living in the South of the South Island, Aotearoa, NZ. It’s been whispered to be one of NZ’s best kept secrets, and after 8 years here, it’s clear to me that its secrets are as safe as ever. Secrets maintained by the impenetrable nature of the land. Mountains which rise nearly vertically from sea level to thousands of meters. Vast areas of mountains and valleys, regularly pummelled and shaped by deluges of rain water fresh from the south seas. Waterfalls and valleys carved over incomprehensible ages by these deluges inevitably finding their way back to the sea, but not before seeding the full lushness of life that fresh water, clear air and strong sunshine inspires where ever it goes. There are immense areas in the South Island, where no human has ever walked and probably never will.
(Check out the video clip for “Along the main Divide”.)
This land guards its secrets well.
Imagine: A droplet of water bourn on the winds, flying turbulent in towering clouds full of up draughts and thunder and menace. Eventually, frozen, it falls and settles somewhere, and there it knows peace and sleeps for a time. But eventually, warmed by the sun, it begins its journey, flowing in rivulets of ice blue water over a frozen highland. Now slow, now faster, now slow and lazy, again, all the while becoming one with an ever increasing flowing body, an un named mountain stream. It trickles into a deep cool lake, where again it rests for a time, until almost without warning, near dawn, a current growing in its body pulls it to an edge and it suddenly finds itself falling and accelerating as it plummets from the high mountain tarn. From a dizzying height, for thousands of feet it falls. The wind rips it into a droplet once again. It drifts and settles on a lush green leaf, a fern, where eventually it drips off the ferns tip, and lands softly in a saturated bed of moss. It soon rejoins the stream, and flows now not through frozen bare highland, but through lush virgin forest. Forest formed millions of years ago, and shaped only by nature in every moment since. Unspeakable things live here. Unknown, unknowable things play here. Incredible things grow here. The stream plays its way through the bush, still crystal clear and cold, but larger life swims in it now. All manner of creatures hide beneath water smoothed rocks, while fish hunt for breakfast. A nymph waits for its moment to emerge and take to the sky. The morning chorus is incredible, out here, where no one goes. The birds dart around the stream and snap up insects emerging from it, and the river moves on, carving its way through the ancient landscapes with the patience of the ages. It has rounded these stones. It has carved these valleys. And as it flows, it grows, and becomes mighty, until it is dwarfed by the ocean, calling it home. The waves smash at the edges of the land.
I cannot speak deeply enough about my love and awe for this land.
Let me speak instead about this music, which I hope reflects something of the magic of this place.
After 8 years of busking in Queenstown, (which could perhaps best be described as the gateway to Southland), all around the world our lives were changed by something we couldn’t even see. Lockdown afforded me the time to return to my home studio, brimming with the accumulated inspiration of all the time spent with just my piano by the lake. The floodgates opened, and the music flowed. All the tracks were recorded in uninterrupted long takes, mostly first takes, with a deliberate minimum of subsequent editing. The tracks were begun with either the piano, or the drum kit, an instrument which I also deeply love playing. I then added other layers of Rhodes, organs, bass, percussion, synths and sound effects. There are almost no loops, but instead a kind of organic monotony which I feel brings life and depth to music, and perhaps in its gentle repetition, speaks of something ancient. Something ever changing, but so slowly that we might never notice as we rush through our busy lives.
As I now move to my next chapter, where I will be based on the West coast near the top of the South Island, it is with deep gratitude that I offer “Southern Landscapes”.

credits

released November 26, 2020

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AJ Hickling New Zealand

AJ has carved a living for himself and his family by playing his street piano publicly, in the most beautiful locations he can find. "Reconnecting music, nature, and people, almost exclusively outside of the established music culture and venues, has in many ways been the most rewarding journey of my life." AJ also has an extensive back catalogue of world fusion, and reggae music. ... more

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