Blumen is a prog/jazz/classical/math rock-infused project led by multi-instrumentalist (primarily pianist) Richard Blumenthal, along with drummer James Knoerl. The project focuses on shining light on the capabilities that the piano has in a setting outside of classical music; it explores and experiments with its many harmonic and rhythmic possibilities. This intent was clear not only through the dizzying time changes, percussive piano playing, and rhythmic complexity in the music, but also upon discussing his music. Blumenthal elaborates on his driving ambitions with Blumen:
‘The final impetus to get going on this project was to show off the fact that piano is a pitched percussion instrument. There’s this pervasive use of piano as a tinkly crystalline pretty thing, which don’t get me wrong can be a gorgeous sound, but it’s not the entirety of what a piano can do, it’s just a cross section, albeit a wonderfully utilized one.‘
As a classically trained pianist, Blumenthal, although having a deep attachment to the progressive music genre, found it hard to participate in the norm of instrumental prog, where the guitarists remain as the dominant voices of instrumental prog. Blumen serves as sort of way to participate in the genre through this relatively unconventional instrument. Because of Blumenthal’s intensive classical training, Blumen is an outlet to delve into the modern compositions of today, branching out into countless areas in musical possibility, serving as sort of a break from his rather traditional educational material.
Let’s take a look into the process of Blumen‘s back catalogue, shall we? In terms of discography, Blumen currently has two solo EPs, titled Mångata and Press 1 for Music. There is also a split EP with With a Smile.
‘I wrote the first EP, Press 1 For Music, during the first couple semesters on and off of my masters. Recorded on a decent grand piano, but just in a practice room at the school of music and with some truly beginner condenser mics, it was uh, a learning experience, rough around the edges. I hope to revisit some of this down the road, especially now that fast friend James Knoerl is part of the project. Once I got the first EP out, it has evolved a bit to be more than the initial proof of concept, and slowly it became a project of Blumen for its own musical sake, rather than just to act as an audio resume of ability or anything solely for the goal of trying to ENLIGHTEN THE MASSES or to try and get session work. I’m not great at actually, you know, ‘writing songs’ and all that, so it’s a painstaking process to stitch together ideas and transitions and put out albums, but there’s 2 solo EPs and a split EP so far. By far the biggest change has been the addition and inclusion of James’s live drums on the last 2 releases (Mångata and the Banana Split EP). He had a few tidbits of input on the composition of Mångata that make it shine, and really the sheer inventiveness of his playing makes the songs simultaneously more frenetic yet groovy.‘
Blumen is a project that is always striving to prove the capabilities of instruments underappreciated in prog, and it’s maturing with every release. Blumenthal has a passion and drive in music, and is very clearly articulated in his compositions. He is optimistic for the future of Blumen, continuously improving and evolving:
‘As a Formal Member of Blumen now, I’m really enjoying the bits of time we’ve had to hash out some new ideas. Having James in at the ground floor to help with writing and especially to help with pacing and figuring out repetitions and variance between sections is going to make this next album, this NEXT ALBUM THO, THESE BARS – the future holds more cohesive and wholistic Blumen tunes, is what I’m saying.‘