Gondwana Records announces ‘Goodbyes’, the debut album from Estonian-born, London-based sound artist and pianist Hanakiv. A deeply beautiful, meditative piano album featuring special guest Alabaster deplume.
“This is an album about healing. It is about saying your goodbyes to everything that doesn’t serve you anymore. Each of these songs has a little goodbye in it. So, these are very beautiful and necessary goodbyes”.
Hanakiv is a young composer and musician from Estonia (now based in London) who creates meditative piano-based ambient music with elements from classical and electronic music. ‘Goodbyes’ is her debut recording and draws on influences as diverse as Tim Hecker, Björk “Vespertine”, Kara-Lis Coverdale, Arvo Pärt, Erkki-Sven Tüür and Aphex Twin as well as her own cultural heritage. Music has an important part in Estonian culture, especially choir music and its traditions, but Hanakiv also draws on her love of nature – the beautiful Estonian seaside and forests - and on her time in Iceland. However, it was moving to London that gave her the freedom to make her own music: “London gave me the freedom and courage to really be who I am (as a person and musically)” and her heritage and her new home both offer inspiration to Goodbyes, as Hanakiv moves between these two opposite places, a bustling metropolis and a small country full of nature, drawing inspiration from both as she sculpts her own voice.
Hanakiv had an unconventional music education – she started studying music at a school for handbells when she was nine and was part of a handbell ensemble for eight years. Starting on piano at the same time she went on to study composition at high school, and later at the Estonian Academy of Music. Eventually switching to electroacoustic composition, she studied in Reykjavik, and did internships in Malmö, and again Reykjavik before moving to London. She grew up in a musical family and her grandmother was a piano teacher and choir conductor.
“I would always ask her to take me to her choir rehearsals. I remember sitting under the grand piano, listening to the choir and just being mesmerised by the sounds. She also teaches in a local music school in the south of Estonia with about ten pianos, and I’d spend a lot of time there as well. I believe this was the starting point for me to get to where I am now. The last two pieces on the album (Home II and Home I) are composed in this same music school, so it feels like a full circle.
An early influence was Regina Spektor “the first artist who made me really want to play piano” alongside dream pop and Sigur Rós’ as well as Estonian contemporary composers such as Erkki-Sven Tüür and Arvo Pärt. Later her studies took her to Reykjavík: “There is this amazing record shop called 12 Tónar in Reykjavik where you can drink espressos and listen to all their vinyls. I spent quite a lot of time there. There is something about Icelandic music that really excited me (the mixture of contemporary electronic sounds with melancholy, emotionality). This is when I started getting more into electronic music, and experimenting outside of classical music”. Following a year long break from studying and inspired by making an electroacoustic soundtrack for a friend’s abstract video, she was inspired to complete a masters in electroacoustic composition, diving fully into the worlds of sound recording and mixing and focusing on surround sound and how to position and move sounds in space, eventually doing an internship with composer Kent Olofson in Malmö, who works with multi-speaker systems for theatre productions. “I learnt a lot from him and he introduced me to some of my favourite plugins I’ve used a lot on this album as well.”
Hanakiv moved to London just as the pandemic hit and found herself trapped, in a big new city, without any network or family and so just concentrated on making music. “I stayed in my room with my basic equipment - keyboard, Korg minilogue, SM 58 and Rode nt1-a microphones, laptop and speakers. I was reading about mixing, and trying out different things and listening to a lot of music to get the sense of the mixes and production and finishing a commission piece for 5.1 multi speaker system at that time so I set up four speakers for quadrophonic surround sound in my room!”. She also found her way back to piano - my instrument – and started practicing again, playing the pieces she used to play, but also just improvising, and this was the beginning of what would become her debut album, ‘Goodbyes’.
“I started appreciating everything about music again (even melody!), and everything just came together naturally, and I arrived to a point where I finally found my voice, and I had something that I wanted to say and share. I composed “Meditation I” first and started with “Goodbye”, and all the other pieces are derived from that. Without “Meditation I” there wouldn’t be this album. If you listen closely, “Meditation I” starts where “Goodbye” ends; “Meditation II” is born from “Meditation I”.
But it was meeting Fi Roberts, a sound engineer based at the legendary Strongrom Studios in Shoreditch, London in December 2020 that really brought the album into focus. The pair bonded over an interest in prepared piano and a similar approach to production ideas (a balance of not overdoing it, and letting the songs speak for themselves, but being open to explore) and Fi became a friend but also a confidant and eventually co-producer
“Fi has a big impact on this record but I don’t know how to really explain that properly. Of course, this album is sonically stunning thanks to her amazing mixes and recording skills, but she also believed in this music so much and it created something very special - that’s difficult to measure with words. She just works with heart, and I really appreciate that”
This then is ‘Goodbyes’, the first offering from a major new voice, who offers us a meditative work full of space and tranquillity but also life and friendship and meaning. And we are very proud to welcome her to the Gondwana family.