The central instrument of East Forest’s Possible is a piano—a 102-year-old Baldwin piano to be precise, which Trevor Oswalt discovered in a music shop. It’s an instrument bound by contradictions—sturdy but weathered, fragile yet resilient. It’s an instrument that carries a lot of history, but there’s a mystery to it as well. As much as it requires great care, it can also give back something immeasurably rewarding.
It’s fitting that the music on East Forest’s latest album is built around such a beautifully unobtrusive conversation piece. Oswalt—a musician, non-religious spiritualist and psychedelic therapy advocate—creates music as much for the sake of restoration and therapy as he does for entertainment or enchantment. Even more so, perhaps. Conceived during the pandemic—as much of 2021’s releases have been—Possible was written with the intent to provide a hopeful path forward. Oswalt says of the album in a statement, “now we all have an unexpected gift to plant our own seeds of choice. We can ask ourselves ‘what’s possible?’”
Possible explores this idea of embracing the wide-open possibility of a world before us through a number of different means, from spoken-word sections about love (“Can’t Fall Out of Love”) and perspective (“Bones,” featuring writer Bayo Akomolafe), to orchestral arrangements (“Tabula Rasa”) and a sweetly lilting flute accompaniment (“Sweetly Down”), to Oswalt’s own voice. But it’s the piano that forms the center of Possible, a beacon of grace and gentleness. It’s often the moments where it’s simply Oswalt performing alone, instrumentally, where the album is at its most breathtaking. It all comes back to that piano.
To highlight specific songs almost feels beside the point with an album like Possible, each piece connected to the one that follows and the one that precedes it. But unlike Brian Eno’s definition of ambient—as ignorable as it is enjoyable—this isn’t music that easily fades into the background. It doesn’t impose, but it’s also too delicately gorgeous and emotionally evocative to become wallpaper. It’s deeply moving music that makes no demands, just offers some beautiful company.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.