The latest release from Drone Sweet Drone contains a tiny bit of drone, but it’s not a drone album. Instead, Flora is a humble collection of piano pieces, the fifth solo album from Kyoto’s Marihiko Hara. Hara calls the disc “a collective of sounds nearest to my heart”. His combination of simple titles (“Forest”, “Camera”, “Lake”, “Ocean”, “Curtain”, “Boat”), tender playing and light field recordings prompts one to imagine the scoring of one’s own favorite things.
This is unobtrusive music, gentle and mild. Hara’s pieces are like the light rain that falls among the mist, watering flowers without drenching them. Occasional electronics provide a slight edge, saving the album from total placidity. Hara varies the space between notes, ranging from playful and full (“Mémoire”) to Zenlike and sparse (“Forest”). Only on the eight-minute “Ocean” (equal to the four shortest tracks combined) does the piano take a back seat, allowing an introverted drone to emerge. Ironically, the piece serves as a bridge between two shores, spanning the center of the album like a deep breath.
Children are birds are also included, elements that most people enjoy but that seem out of place here. One would rather hear the sounds of the scored subject ~ an aperture, an oar. Perhaps it’s forgivable to hear a door instead of a curtain on “Curtain”, simply because curtains tend to be inaudible, but the slow drawing back of fabric might have been an eloquent addition. The listeners knows these sounds are close to Hara’s heart; but a universal connection would be even more effective. “Boat” is Flora‘s most evocative piece as it contains the most distinctive timbre, a smudge of static and submersion. The center backwash drowns the piano in salt and rippled distortion. We hope Hara will investigate this direction further; more tracks like this, and the mist will become a downpour. (Richard Allen)