Music: Belle Chen – Ravel In The Forest 

Humanity, Nature & Alchemy

As with all art, it’s rightly open to interpretation. Sure, there are the reference inspiration points, the compass directions the creator had in mind while nurturing the work, the journeys they went on, the meanderings, unbeaten paths, and the rest stops. The beauty they saw, sensed and magically encapsulated, in the case of musicians, into ethereal sounds. Invisible vibrations of air, painting pictures in your mind.

photo credit: Matthew Johnson

It takes a huge amount of time, struggle and determination to complete these visions, a rigour that is all too often dismissed in the swipe-world we all seem to live in. That’s not aimed at any demographic, or generation, that’s seems to be everyone now. Setting aside some quality time to truly fall into an album can instantly transport you to any place and time, it’s an alchemy of the senses, it’s also a swipe free zone. It can be the place that inspired the artist, or an entire universe of your own divinity. Wherever you may be taken, there are few places more beautiful, or serene than the universe of pianist Belle Chen’s new album ‘Ravel In The Forest’

There has been so much news in recent weeks, about the potential forthcoming AI tsunami about to crash our shores. Just this morning I watched how ChatGPT’s Sora will render entire movies from text prompts, and how Googles’ Gemini will render truly epic tasks in seconds. That’s just two cases, of the many thousands that will come. It’s all staggering, amazing, and somewhat terrifying. At the crux of it all though, is an intuitive feeling that we are racing away from our very humanity, and in particular, nature, that entity with which we’ve had our greatest, and longest relationship with. It’s quite telling that you don’t have to look far for statistics that show a severe increase in anxiety in society as a whole, despite all this god-like tech. As much as I embrace progress, there is a hint of ‘the golden calf’, worshipping false idols about AI.

Praise be we have the likes of Belle Chen to counter, and sonically shelter us from the digital storm.

Belle seemlessy blends all the greatest facets of her heritage (Taiwanese-Australian), presently based in London, and the future of what can be, what by all accounts should be, a symbiotic relationship between humanity, nature and technology, where we embrace what makes use resonate, what makes us human.

‘Ravel In The Forest’ is Belle’s own journey into re-establishing her relationship with nature. Like a gentle unfurling into an awakening day, the opening track ‘Passages of Time’ is effectively a beautiful sample of all that is to come. It tenderly holds your hand and walks with you into an ever fertile land of rich colour, a vast depth of sensory reactions, euphoric dance, radiant life, flickering light, spatial sounds and memory triggering smells. I’m positive it has synesthesia properties woven into the notes, as the serenity it imbues is tantamount to laying down in deep grass on a gorgeous summer’s day, with a gentle warm breeze hugging your skin.

Inspired by her own wanderings through fields and forests, it’s as if plants, trees and insects magically metamorphosed before her, vines into strings, leaves into keys, rustles into symphonies (the Budapest Art Orchestra are used on a couple of tracks), animal calls into traditional Asian instruments, and even synths as the glimpses of surprise you always get on walks. Each track inhales and exhales, layers of foliage and notes, sometimes sparse, others densely fertile, vibrant, breathing movement and dance throughout, a celebration of a moment, nature, and life itself. In observing it, and being it.

Flow state is the mental state where an individual falls into a sense of clam, focus on a single task, and decrease in self-consciousness, a place of zen, where anxiety falls away, and time changes. You always tell when you are in such a place when something you have really enjoyed seems to have sped by in an instant. Such is the case with ‘Ravel In The Forest’. With 16 tracks totalling 48m 54secs, it fleets by like the smell of freshly cut grass. You feel elated, alive, and you need more, so the amount of times I’ve just played the album again is quite telling. One, of it’s quality, but secondly, and probably most importantly, how it makes you feel, which is heavenly, though a heaven on earth. Belle has managed to capture nature, in all her glory, so you can carry it around in your pocket, hopefully on your way to visit the very places that inspired the album.


Ravel In The Forest by Belle Chen is out now through Platoon. More information can be found at

Steve Clarke

Born in Celtic lands, nurtured in art college, trained by the BBC, inspired by Hunter S. Thompson and released onto the battlefront of all things interesting/inspiring/good vibes... people, movies, music, clubbing, revolution, gigs, festivals, books, art, theatre, painting and trying to find letters on keyboards in the name of flushthefashion. Making sure it's not quite on the western front... and beyond.