zmi – Piano Diary

The opening of this utterly beguiling album is a pure expression of the joy of music making. Right from the very first gently whirling arpeggios, the soul can’t help but sing along. The melodies are glorious, perfectly encapsulating the emotion of the moment.

As readers can gather from the earnestness of these opening sentences, this is not an album for the jaded and cynical (though what a utopia we would live in if they could open their hearts to it). No, this is an album of innocence, wonder and hope. If you’ve ever found yourself swept up by a Studio Ghibli movie, you’ll enjoy this. Not only do the music’s charms share a kinship to Joe Hisaishi’s wonderful soundtracks, but that beautiful semi-magical world that Ghibli so often creates in their movies feels within touching distance.

zmi is a world traveller who is currently resident in Canada. Her debut album fu-ne was released by Nature Bliss in 2015. Her second album Piano Diary, which was recorded primarily in 2021, is a series of impromptu piano sketches that capture the mood of the day in which they were created. As such, the audio is not studio quality and sometimes varies between tracks. Some may find this a little off-putting but the pros far outweigh the cons: not only does one get a real sense of the spontaneousness of the compositions, but one also gets an insight into what was going on around zmi as she was composing. Birds sing, clattering dishes echo down the corridor, the roar of a motorcycle carries through the distance.

As the album shifts into its second half the tone starts to change. The sense of wonder fades, replaced by a new fragility. The space between notes grows ever larger and occasionally zmi shyly adds tender vocals. This reviewer couldn’t make out the lyrics, but they seem contemplative, almost meditative. One one late track, June 13th 2018, the texture is sparser than ever before, and in the distance children can be heard playing, and one gets the sense that zmi is experiencing and exploring detachment. In the last two tracks, however, the tempo picks up again. Is zmi consoling us? Or is she telling us that all emotion ebbs and flows in cycles? Whatever she’s thinking, this is an album for those quiet, joyful moments when one feels profoundly connected to the world, to others, to life.  (Garreth Brooke)

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