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Romain Collin: Press Enter

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Romain Collin’s music is cinematic. Each of the 10 songs on his third album, Press Enter, could be used at a key moment or climactic scene in a film. Given the French-born pianist’s background composing music for movies, this makes sense. His songs build gradually and dramatically, in the manner of rock anthems; Marco Benevento and the late Esbjörn Svensson are obvious kindred spirits. The other two members of Collin’s trio-bassist Luques Curtis and drummer Kendrick Scott-were classmates of his at the Berklee College of Music, and they have his back. This is a solo-free zone, with no room for showoffs.

Their music is not jazz, not rock, not pop, not new age, not modern classical, and yet it is all of those. It can recall the Bad Plus and e.s.t., but it can also conjure Coldplay and Yanni. Collin likes his ostinatos, employing left-hand pounding, using repetition to drive home the point of tunes like “99” and “The Line (Dividing Good and Evil Cuts Through the Heart of Every Human Being).” Phrases are repeated much faster on “Clockwork,” with the aid of drum-and-bass stylings. Sometimes Collin veers a bit too close to new age: “Raw, Scorched and Untethered,” written after a breakup, is almost melodramatic in its emotional overload. “The Kids”-with pianist Jean-Michel Pilc whistling over a three-note phrase-is so playful it could be used in a children’s cartoon. Then there is the odd but effective “Event Horizon,” a plodding number that incorporates the voices of wrongly convicted prisoners. Two of the 10 songs are covers, and they are inspired choices. Indie-folk darling Bon Iver’s “Holocene” is quiet and reflective, and Thelonious Monk’s “‘Round Midnight” begins with a classical, Romantic sensibility, though the minor key eventually creeps in. Monk would not be amused, but we are.

Originally Published