Lance Hoeppner / Well Into The Night
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Lance Hoeppner is a busy man. Co-founder of the Fort Wayne favorite experimental rock trio-turned-duo Moser Woods, Hoeppner also performs in the Marnée Project. So why would he choose to release a solo album? “Friends encouraged me to do a solo piano project, but I didn’t want to limit it to just piano,” he says. So he brought in several guests to bring variety to the disc. “I pretty much let them do whatever they wanted and then built around it.” The result is a satisfying foray into piano music (think less Jim Brickman, more George Winston meets tomandandy) that retains the constantly shifting moody motion we’ve come to love from his Moser Woods compositions. It’s mellower, allowing Hoeppner to explore a compositional palate that doesn’t always fit the rock paradigm.
“Creeping Phlox” begins the disc with a melodic, almost art film feel, with various turns of atmospheric darkness. The title track follows with an abrupt, cinematic crash that opens up a Beowulf-ish poetic narrative (courtesy of Darin Leinbach) over a droning pipe organ. The poetry has an over-the-top feel with winks of humor (“I am Poet, Musician, many skills doomed to trying many things / the impoverished drinker of champagne / I brewed it myself and since burned the rest of my money to keep warm”) that then releases a piano and drum scuffle. This is almost performance art.
“Breaking the Lines” continues the dream with singer/songwriter phenom Marnée singing a melody that hints at Tori Amos here and Led Zeppelin there. As you would expect from Hoeppner, the song shifts from dramatic to lilting to contemplative to dark and back again, all in four minutes. “Driving Into Oblivion” brings more of the propulsive piano with some string treatments, evoking a mystery or even horror film, interchanged with beautiful interludes without slowing down until the last minute, where it ends with a still epiphany. “Yoda the Loda” interrupts the feel with a retro-electronic left turn that forays into progressive rock keyboard territory. With “The Luminous Egg,” the dream goes much deeper with an ambient wash underscoring an old spoken word clip from a 1960s funeral, complete with phonographic hisses and pops. Both word and note speak of mortality and rebirth; the piano weaves around and punctuates the old voice, circling and darting like some wild deer.
“Comatoast” continues with a creepy, contemplative riff and a pleasantly disturbing vocal by Linda Predina that reinforces and intensifies the trippy feel you might expect from the song’s title. It culminates with the question, “What are you going to do with yourself?” The dreamer sinks deeper into “Ebb and Flow.” Ominous strings give birth to a plodding piano that begins its gallop again, only this time with some bowed bass alongside. It offers an almost romantic melody at one moment, but returns again to more familiar territory.
“Sleeping Angel” is the pinnacle of the disc. The piano flutters over beat-box rhythms, then fades into a delightful dance on the kora (an African gourd harp) that is overlaid with more of Leinbach’s poetry. The musical and lyrical result is both joyful and contemplative, like sunshine on the face. “Awaken” brings us out of our reverie with a sober reflection of our experience along this dreamscape. There are minor technical imperfections on the disc that might distract some listeners, but for the serious listener, for the dreamer in us all, Well Into The Night gives us something to write about in our inner journals.