Bowerbirds are a species of bird native to New Guinea and northern Australia, renowned for their unique courtship behaviour. The male will build a structure and decorate it with colourful objects in an attempt to attract a mate. While no doubt entirely instinctual, these dwellings - known as bowers - are nonetheless a source of great pride for these birds; homes built with love, dedication and the hope of something great to come. ‘Bower’ is the second track on More Heart Stories, fellow Australian Luke Howard’s fleeting follow up EP to May’s beautiful release Open Heart Story. I’ll confess, I’ve no way of knowing if this is the intended use of ‘bower’, but it feels right within Howard’s instrumental explorations of memory, home and finding place in the world.
His gentle piano compositions are immediately comparable to fellow classical contemporaries the likes of Ólafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm, but while the northern reaches of Iceland and Germany seem to demand the creation of such fragile compositions, Australia doesn’t immediately promote such connections. Make no mistake, Melbourne has its share of bad weather; but the more sunny and laid back reputation of down under found Howard with a piano in a small apartment in the more fittingly broody Berlin, where both Open Heart Story and More Heart Stories were recorded. Questions of memory and home feel inevitable then, as being on the other side of the world from your childhood will warrant. Titles like ‘Open’ and ‘Place’ along with ‘Bower’, are fitting then, and the music similarly so.
Where Howard’s piano lines built and bloomed with full orchestration on Open Heart Story, here we find him with just him and his piano. These are the personal, vulnerable and intimate peripherals of those glittering pieces. Unfortunately not long enough alone to sustain a true period of meditation or reflection, More Heart Stories nevertheless serves as a lovely partner to its full length predecessor and feels as though it should be listened in tandem to it. Three short moments of gentle piano beauty that call to mind the likes of Erik Satie or Eluvium’s An Accidental Memory in the Case of Death, they sit deservedly beside Open Heart Story as heartfelt sign off without the flourish. When the excitement of the colourful bells and whistles has faded, what’s left is the bower; home.