EP Review: Ink Sticks & Stones – Vaste

Vaste is the new five movement suite from Canadian neoclassical composer Ai Rei Dooh-Tousignant who performs under the moniker Ink Sticks & Stones. I recently ran the rule over the EP’s third movement Vaste III and loved it, so was keen to hear the whole suite which has been released today.

By Graeme Smith

The five movements of Vaste feel like an expansion of Vaste III, both the prologue and epilogue of a piece I described as giving sense of space. Vaste III was inspired by the boreal forest of Northern Canada and Ai Rei manages an incredible sonic reconstruction of it. The first two movements of Vaste feel like the journey there. That journey starts and ends in the Far East and features the traditional Chinese instrument the erhu.

Vaste IV expands the narrative. Beneath the calmness of the arrangement broods an undercurrent of uncertainty, perhaps even threat. The suspense climbs to a dramatic climax, setting the scene for the EP’s lead single, Vaste V.

Sorrowful piano hits heavy and is joined by viola, cello and the erhu like mourners at a funeral. The violin cuts through the sorrow with a jolt of hope and the track builds from there, revelling in its dichotomy. Ai Rei explains that the piece is about self-discovery and it certainly feels introspective by nature, but with one eye on the world around – much like the feeling of being lost in thought surrounded by the splendour of nature.

Vaste feels like an EP which began with a solid concept that was built upon by countless hours of hard work and refining. The production by Grammy Award winner Inaam Haq gives it a sense of polish and professionalism without losing its core emotion. If you’re someone who hasn’t explored the neoclassical genre, it’s a great introduction. If you’re looking for something calming to meditate to today, then it’s perfect. Whatever state of mind you’re in, I encourage you to give it a try, even if it’s just for the journey alone.