Soniscope is a rainy day album. When sun and sand beckon, the music fades into the background; but when one is stuck inside, dreaming of the beach, the sounds surge to the foreground. Midori Hirano‘s compositions seem simple on the surface but are intricate beneath. This is displayed on “Phantom Train” (the fourth track in Juno Daily’s Dauw mix), where a beat invites movement as her textures swirl and coalesce. Conversely, there are no beats in the Foam and Sand remix of “Patterns” (available in the digital format), although there are waves ~ a fine way to introduce the ambient arm of Robot Koch. The fact that the remix follows “White Sand,” the last track on the album proper, is certainly no coincidence. In this piece, Hirano showcases her primary instrument, the piano, leaving an indelible impression.
While the titles stretch from sea to space, the inspiration for Soniscope is a series of small Jizo statues that Hirano encountered while recording the score for Mizuko. Jizo statues are known as protectors of travelers and children, so it is no surprise that the album begins with the soft forest sounds of “Missing Night” and proceeds to wrap around the listener like a protective red cap. The tiny electronic touches are reminiscent of her alter ego MimiCof, but they do not dominate; string motifs make a larger impression, adding depth to the already redolent “Collapsing Planet.” These timbres continue in “Strings of Memories,” a melancholic piece graced by a second half pulse that implies life beyond nostalgia.
“Patterns” is the album’s center, anchored by a confident theme in the lower keys, brightened by right hand contributions. In this piece, Hirano duets with herself, layer upon layer, key upon key. A new theme enters midway, wresting control of the ears. While the title is open to interpretation, a fair guess would be that our personas often overlap: child and protector, reader and chronicler, recaller and dreamer. “Binary Star” seems to support this conclusion, while the harp of “Inside” connotes the peace of coexisting dichotomies. Is it any wonder that Hirano / MimiCof serves as a Jizo statue for Robot Koch, a safe umbrella under which this second artist may express a second side? The rain implies the sun, the cloud the open sky. (Richard Allen)
Release date: 10 September