Once in a while, we come across an artist so good that we are flabbergasted not to have heard of them before. On even rarer occasions, we realize that we have. Multi-instrumentalist Thomas William Hill is the founder (and at one time, only member) of Origamibiro, whose albums have been wooing us for a decade. He’s also a prolific TV soundtrack artist, and Asylum for Eve bears the dramatic, emotive tone of cinema. He’s even written a loose plot for the new album, based on Mitochondrial Eve wandering around in the present day; but as the album is instrumental, one can be forgiven for not picking up on such a specific subject.
More apparent while listening is the interplay between composition and chance, produced via found sound and prepared piano. In Origamibiro, Hill has been known to conscript any available object as percussion; his solo work possesses a similar playfulness. Plucked violin, ukulele, banjo and other instruments make guest appearances, all in the service of texture. The opening of “Tyranny of the Frame” references “Eleanor Rigby”, while the title implies a desire to burst boundaries. This is what occurs whenever the screws and nails begin bouncing around like loose change. A note is a note, until it becomes subject to random forces.
Even without drums, some of these pieces invite listeners to dance. The sprightly tone and steady tempo of “Venetian Zoetrope” is one of these. Add a beat and a breakdown, and this would become an instant crowd pleaser. But just as one thinks the artist is tilting toward the mainstream, other elements break through: in the opening notes of “Laniakea”, warped notes and a complete stop. This is exactly the sort of artist that cinema needs right now, and is finally starting to discover: one able to access the necessary emotions while adding a distinct tone. (Look no further than Ramin Djawadi’s player piano in Westworld for a recent example.) If the images of TV and film are meant to be edgy, then they need an edgy score, one that makes viewers ask, “What was that sound?” By expanding the instrumental palette, Hill offers something more distinctive than the expected piano, strings and predictable surges. Just as the gorgeous painted cover is far more effective than a photograph, the music offers textures and hues of its own. Asylum for Eve is color converted into sound. (Richard Allen)