Ever wondered what it might be like to ride a bullet train through 18th century Vienna? Neither have we. But it's a close approximation of how you might approach the work of 29-year-old musician Midori Hirano. The Kyoto-born classical pianist turned electronica artist, now based in Berlin, dances the divide between electronic and acoustic sound, creating lush, layered chamber music out of piano, strings, digital samples and vocals in songs that hark back to the past while hinting, irresistibly, toward the future.
Hirano's sophomore album klo:yuri takes its cue from her minimalist full-length debut, 2006's LushRush, although she strips away much of the live instrumentation of her previous offering, relying more heavily on field recordings, synthetic effects and her own ethereal voice. These elements are blended through subtle orchestrations and seamless improvisations to create a sensual, cinematic sound think Michael Nyman times Hans Zimmer to the power of Sigur Rós.
Yet for all its textural complexity, klo:yuri is grounded in warm, intimate melodies worthy of a private salon (albeit one furnished with a laptop and a pair of keyboards). "Terra," its opener, kicks off with a frenzy of organic sounds fast-swirling piano, skidding violin before sliding into a further nine tracks. From the ludic raptures of "Feathers" to the slow-building threnody of "Cells That Smell Sounds" they span the spectrum of light and dark. The album's highlight comes in the form of "Null," a doozy of soaring strings, synths and syncopated percussion offset by strangely compelling counting in German, which is very Hirano: at once familiar and odd, with the ineffable quality of a dream.