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John Puchiele Ensemble - After Life (self-released)

1 November 2023

It is easy to think of classical music as something that lives in the past, a body of work captured in time, music made by past musicians to be enjoyed by long-gone audiences, in venues no longer standing. Music which exists only in its proper form as lines on a sheet of paper. But, we know in our hearts that not to be true, that classical music, for want of a better word, evolves just as any other style or genre does, and it survives in film scores and incidental music as much as it does in the works of its modern creators. Creators such as John Puchiele.

As a former member of The Glass Orchestra, Puchiele is familiar with the concept of pushing music into new and more exploratory spaces. Here, with his collective, he does that through music made up of gentle drones and subtle washes, lingering notes, and hushed atmospherics, music which seems to ebb and flow between one delicate and supple wave and the next. Understatement is the game’s name, and it is a game that he excels at.

After Life, his 6th album to date, is an aural and metaphorical journey into the next life, a meditation on what might await us once this part of our life cycle ends. It is music that reveals no real answers, how can it, but it does create the perfect sound to act as a meditation on such poignant and powerful ideas. It is music that makes you feel and think. Music that facilitates questions, often via the music and the titles alone, but it isn’t music that directly answers those posed problems. That, as always, is up to the individual to contemplate.

Usually, in a music review, I would dive into an examination of the tracks, or at least the high points and memorable moments, but this is not that sort of album. Better that you explore the drifts and drones, the waves and washes, the constructive understatement and the hushed minimalism, (that speaks volumes) the lonely soloing and the collective emotions, for yourself. Best you draw your own conclusions. It’s the best and perhaps the only way to fully understand the purpose of this piece.