"Zero" - Mark Northfield
And now for something completely different. Mark Northfield is a British pianist, composer, arranger, and sometime singer who has here taken his classical training and focused it on the production of something almost but not quite resembling a pop song. Beginning quietly, with voice and piano, "Zero" adds guitar, strings, and, eventually, a choir-like array of backing vocals; the piece evolves gently but determinedly towards two climaxes, the first string-driven, contained, and unresolved (roughly 3:08 through 3:25), the second louder, more fervent, and choral (beginning around 5:06).
Pay attention throughout to the string arrangements, which are expressive but never pushy; the song is half over before he puts the strings center stage, and some of the nicest work comes after their "solo," when the violins, with restraint, offer high fills between lyrical phrases.
"Zero" is a song from the CD Ascendant, which Northfield released on his own Substantive Recordings label earlier this year. On eight of the songs, Northfield doesn't sing himself, employing an assortment of guest vocalists, but on "Zero," it's him. An important aspect of the CD is that the nine songs are presented in an uninterrupted flow--as Northfield notes on his web site, the album is "designed to be heard (in a shuffle-free world) from start to finish, with introductions to each track lifting re-arranged fragments from elsewhere on the album to create a more or less continuous soundtrack." And yet Northfield is of course not unaware of how most people listen to their music in the 21st century; he is kind enough to offer seven of the songs in so-called "chopped" mode on his web site, including "Zero." Thanks to Owen Duff, himself a Fingertips-featured artist, for the head's up.