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by Zane Henry / 02.05.2012

It’s a relief, really, to be able to suspend the compulsion to judge and to criticise. To just listen, you know. See, Jeremy De Tolly’s Piano Nocturnes is so far removed from the concerns of popular music that any attendant considerations are redundant.

As consumers of pop, we’re conditioned to look out for the hooks and the choruses and all the other musical money shots, none of which are on offer here tonight at the launch of Dirty Skirts front man, Jeremy De Tolly’s Piano Nocturnes: Volume One. With that frame of reference removed from the music, one is freed to accept it on its own terms.

The vibe at Sea Point’s SABC Studios isn’t exactly typical of a Dirty Skirts gig. It is quiet and intimate and centered around good acoustics that don’t have to contend with drunken multitudes and incongruous room design. The stage is populated only by a screen, a couple of stools and a big-ass grand piano. A spangled night sky is projected on the ceiling, Hogwarts-style, and attendees take their seats while crickets chirp over the PA.

De Tolly takes the stage in a flap of affability and nerves, thanks everyone for coming and tells us that he doesn’t mind if we stretch out on the floor and have a nap while he plays.

The show starts with a hush and ends with a hush. Wanky as it may sound, Nocturnes is an exercise in minimalism that is more concerned with the quiet spaces between the music than the notes themselves.

The first song is built on the repetition of a couple of notes, with the space between them stretched across light years. De Tolly is joined by an accordionist and double bassist at different times to add texture to the effulgence of the star, the piano. There are no lyrics so emotions and pictures can be ascribed at will: driving down a midnight highway dotted with fluorescence; standing on a rain-soaked cliff at dawn; floating through soundless outer space in a pimped-out space suit; or, as in my case, making passionate but tender love to Andy Davis’s bald spot.

Hey. No judgement. No criticism.

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