Midori Hirano, Minor Planet, 2016

minor planet frontSonic Pieces label.

Ambient style: modern classical, piano, hiss, presence, noise, static, synth, field recording. My general impression was one of the artist, a piano player, using her instrument as a means of astral travelling. The piano blurs into indistinct phrases and blends with mechanical and electronic synth tones which carry both artist and listener away into abstraction and dreaming. This album rewards repeated listening.

minor planet labelBy The Windowopens with twinkling synth and deeply blurred piano, as well as tape hiss, the atmospheric sound of something being recorded live. The piano sounds like it’s being played in a closed room two storeys down, while the shimmering keyboard notes suggest residual echoes in the upper floors of a large house. The mood is pensive and mysterious, the piano playing is a two handed pulse. It’s very ambient in the sense that we’re listening in to somebody else’s life. That’s the feeling given off by the “lo-fi” quality of the recording, by which I mean the pulsing sound of air and body movement, a presence.

Night Travelling… similar yet quite different, the piano is even more blurred and distant this time, and the close-up sounds resemble a quickly vibrating high note, still faint, like something on a toy train track. Again, we can hear a very ambient impression of ‘presence’ crafted out of generic amorphous tape-hiss, sort of shifting vaguely in and out.

Rabbits In The Path… low piano drones so blurred you can’t really make out any distinct notes this time. Slowly a fuzzy tone blends into the foreground and higher piano notes become clear, yet always three floors away and behind closed doors. An airy wavy hum creates presence. The mood is always ‘otherness’ as though the listener is not allowed to get any closer. The piano is never melodic in the tuneful sense. More like two sets of notes being played alternately like a pulse.

Two Kites… piano and synth tones combine with faint fuzzy static to create blurry pulses. Shimmering high keyboard tone warbles distortedly above the piano, while gusts of air blow on the microphone creating a layer of distortion, and very faint radio detuned dial tone swirls to fade out.

minor planet labelShe Was There… shimmery and watery synth tones quietly merge and separate and mix, while a harsh electronic fuzztone lands on top of it. This is more alien and weird than side one. Wind blows in on the right speaker. The harsh fuzz tone creates interest, while other tones blend and drone in the background. Dystopian future or alien worldliness, as though a spacecraft arrives in a docking bay.

Haiyuki… the piano is back, but more pensive and clearer, but so are the warbling twinkly synth tones, and one imagines a scene of slow revelation as the main character wanders through a forest in snow, yet a disturbing low bass pulse creates dread. Other similarly very low pulsing electronic crackle tones blurt and blatter over the shimmer and leaf crackle. A couple of notes from the high end of the piano.

Rolling Moon… water dripping, like, actual water, mixed with an electronic version of the same, just faint, very quiet, slithery metallic track tones slide around behind this, in and out, creating a sense of movement. But again, it’s quite alien and possibly mechanical, industrial, like say, the sounds of a lathe plant operating two buildings away, while in some other part of the factory a pipe leaks, then crash, something breaks, and a warmer synth tone enters to provide backdrop for the dripping. That eerie mechanical slithering tone continues to suggest something spinning very fast. These disappear then return, and we have an image of a metalshop worker, working through the night, or perhaps some automatic process. Metallic pulsing motions and shimmer. I can’t quite get a narrative going here.

minor planet backSummary: Generally parts of this album have the feeling of being recorded live in some kind of interior space where the walls and corners and closed doors and corridors channel the music from instruments to microphone. The musicality factor is medium insofar as memorable ‘tunes’ are present but extremely simple, slightly haunted. This is more about presence, live ambience, pensive thought and dreams. It’s a slightly ‘harsh’ listen in places owing to metallic shimmer and high tone drones that bleed in and out of the mix, as well as a general white noise tape hiss  or wash of air that comes and goes on most tracks. For the most part, it’s melancholy, slightly cool, and otherworldly. And in case it’s not clear in my write-up, I really do dig this. It’s great.

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About Alan Bumstead Vinyl Reviews

Alan Bumstead is a music fanatic who humbly adds confusion to the world with a string of album reviews written during real-time-listening in a stream-of-consciousness style, then edited for spelling, punctuation, flow and grammar. Apart from an additional introductory paragraph, the writing is improvised in time with the music. There is no re-writing. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- In his book Moving To Higher Ground Wynton Marsalis says, "Because jazz musicians improvise under the pressure of time, what's inside comes out pure. It's like being pressed to answer a question before you have a chance to get your lie straight. The first thought is usually the truth." I like to think that's what Alan Bumstead's all about.
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