A tiny brick chapel in the gloom of dusk, double doors flung open revealing a bright interior of the edifice in the foreground of dark, dense foliage, on the cover of Still, the debut CD release of the Belgium-based piano trio, Donder. The imagery portrays to perfection the music of the group. Reflective and often minimalist, neat and lovely in its architecture, appealing in its apparent simplicity.
It’s impossible to avoid an ECM Records comparison with Still, specifically the label’s European piano trio artistry from the likes of Marcin Wasilewski, Tord Gustavsen, Stefano Battaglia. These are trios that meld themselves into single wholes, with subtle group dynamics that still retain individual instrumental idiosyncrasies. Donder’s pianist, Harrison Steingueldoir, seems to select every sound with deliberate determination, ringing out translucent notes and calculated chords. Stan Callewaert’s bass lays a dark-hued backdrop—ringing single notes, eerie bowed interludes—and drummer Casper van de Velde weaves a tapestry of percussive rattles and rumblings on “Aurora,” and a mini-orchestration of skins and cymbals to open “Spin/Zepplin.”
The set sounds like a suite in its straight-through cohesion—atmospheric and cinematic, a soundtrack to a late afternoon in late autumn, dark clouds looming in off the slate gray ocean, a lone figure walking up a grassy knoll to a small house that is lit brightly from within, with a thunder rumbling softly in the distance.
Personnel: Harrison Steingueldoir: piano; Stan Callewaert: bass; Casper Van De Velde: drums.