Bonnie Milne’s path is, in some ways, typical. The Canadian keyboardist/pianist has pursued her musical ambitions since early childhood, finding her love for piano, and carried that passion into college and beyond. She’s a music educator now and, after that, the typical ends. The call to creativity manifests itself in her life in various ways and she’s composed her own material since childhood. Her opening singles for 2022, “New Beginnings” and “Uncertain”, are illustrative of her talents and seldom repeat themselves. Serving up two distinctive instrumental compositions built around her fleet-foot work on the keys is an auspicious move for this still relatively new year.

I love the partnering of piano and violin in “New Beginnings”. The violin could benefit from being a little higher in the mix, but even listeners objecting to Milne’s sonic priorities will still understand what she’s attempting to achieve with the pairing. The violin isn’t here to merely mimic the piano. Instead, Milne’s apparent aim is to create an ongoing dialogue between the two instruments. Her piano leads the “conversation”, but “New Beginnings” would be a much thinner listening experience without strings countering the piano.

The production does an excellent job bolstering the track’s sonic muscle. The strings taking over the composition’s low melody adds weight to the performance, but the ambient benefits derived from the recording further deepen its sound. There’s nothing about its sonic character pushing listeners away and the confidence of its playing is a further draw for the audience. She’s one of the best exclusively instrumental talents emerging in recent years and her audience appeal is a major reason why.

She’s careful never to go on too long. “New Beginnings” comes to a natural rather than forced ending and the way she resolves its melody proves to be one of the most satisfying aspects of this performance. The second single “Uncertain” shares the same sense of completeness. She filters her musical vision through a different sound than the first single, dispensing with the piano, but the synthesized touches powering “Uncertain” are every bit as considered.

She details the melody with a steady hand, always alert to possibilities for invention, and it results in an instrumental performance inviting multiple listens. Milne isn’t interested in music’s disposable effects and her writing shows this. These somewhat brief performances downplay her ambition, as well. Attempting to give a musical shape to a concept like uncertainty speaks to the confidence she has in compositional and playing abilities and, if nothing else shows she’s willing to set the bar high.

There is nothing typical about that. Many musicians, from the club rocker to the concert pianist, are content to coast on their talents, lazy and bored, prepared to give the audience what they want and nothing more. Bonnie Milne’s instrumentals reach higher. “New Beginnings” and “Uncertain” are musical works of art designed to produce emotional reactions from their listeners and help Milne, as well, express what is in her heart. Anything else after that is just gravy.

Sebastian Cole