Music

Hiromi: Brain

Robert R. Calder

Hiromi

Brain

Label: Telarc
US Release Date: 2004-05-25
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

The second issue by a young artist whose first was acclaimed lays a big duty on its reviewer. It's necessary to avoid misidentifying this second CD with the whole of the rest of the artist's life, or with any idea that it's a valid test of consistency -- or use hack phrases beginning with: flash in the... / make or... / nine days' w......). This CD didn't need to be anything that special. Pianists commonly play quite a lot between studio dates, CDs spill out by the dozen, and it's only been a year since the previous one, and -- despite its title and blurbs, though, this set supports no claim that it will turn out among the more musically intelligent ones Hiromi ever performed or recorded.

Telarc's blurbist was wrong to say that this young Japanese pianist's previous set "mesmerised" listeners. Marmelised might be better, as in, I think, the Popeye cartoons: when the hero began swinging a hamsize fist and promising to perform that vigorous function against the opposition. On her first CD, this puissant pianist did such good impersonations of tidal waves that another reviewer suggested a follow-up would have to be gentler, as if Hiromi was already in need of a rest. As it happens, deeper musical intelligence took a rest in this ill-named set.

It opens with what's mostly dialogue between an electric bass and I presume (Hiromi being the guilty party) some sort of keyboard. The track consists of noises I can't take seriously. The blurbist tells us that Hiromi used to write for TV commercials and is now composing from the heart. This sounds more belly. If it's meant to be funny it is, but it goes on too long, though an especial twist comes close to the end, when a sudden speeding up sounds like a motor whose speed -- foot down on the throttle -- has been suddenly increased. Come to think of it, there was some such effect in Popeye. I mention him in case this CD's a dire suspension of sense of humour.

If you are not affected in the same way by the blurbist's turn of cant -- "Deep grooves follow in the slow-dirty-funk ... 'Keytalk', wherein Hiromi's keyboard mimics a classic Bootsy Collins bass run through a guitar talk box" -- you might like more of this CD than I do. Deep is dead wrong for it. Try emotionally narrow, or shallow. I did think that the track which opens with an unimportant chorus of synthesised alto-flute was starting to become interesting, but it never went far from the surface. I forget the track's name, and leave that occlusion as a measure of its lack of individuality. A real individuality of technique does show from time to time, but display of technique and flightofthebumblebee or mosquitoimpersonation fast finger runs rather elbow out real personal potential and its development. Perhaps the pianist's been rehearsing too much?

Were most of these eight "new compositions" put together short on compositional foresight? Was there enough thought of what's needed in a base for improvisation, if there's to be creative musical development out of it -- rather than just playing the same thing in a different way: under all the stagger-making technique, no better than a hack cocktail pianist's change of key or pedalling or pace or volume? There are things no machine can do, and for rather too much of this manifestation of collossal sheer technical command Hiromi seems not to be doing what machines cannot do.

The performance I really like is "If", which the blurbist does not mention. Reasons for not being impressed by others include a trick of dropping the volume level uncoordinated with the progression of the performance. The blurbist talks of Hiromi's "genre dissident flair", where disconnected cleverness would be more accurate. "The diversity of this album runs the gamut of rock, jazz and classical"? The same could be said of an evening in an old-fashioned hotel lounge, or many the uninspired hack situation: no specific creative focus -- though again hardly anyone thus placed would have Hiromi's fingers. Will I leave the last word to the blurbist: Hiromi's "use of keyboard on this album generates moments of spaceman sounds..., while her arrangements would make Zappa and Beethoven grin and nod their head (sic!) in time, P-Funk style"?

No. And the word is No.

Music

The Best Metal of 2017

Painting by Mariusz Lewandowski. Cover of Bell Witch's Mirror Reaper.

There's common ground between all 20 metal albums despite musical differences: the ability to provide a cathartic release for the creator and the consumer alike, right when we need it most.

With global anxiety at unprecedented high levels it is important to try and maintain some personal equilibrium. Thankfully, metal, like a spiritual belief, can prove grounding. To outsiders, metal has always been known for its escapism and fantastical elements; but as most fans will tell you, metal is equally attuned to the concerns of the world and the internal struggles we face and has never shied away from holding a mirror up to man's inhumanity.

Keep reading... Show less

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

Two recently translated works -- Lydie Salvayre's Cry, Mother Spain and Joan Sales' Uncertain Glory -- bring to life the profound complexity of an early struggle against fascism, the Spanish Civil War.

There are several ways to write about the Spanish Civil War, that sorry three-year prelude to World War II which saw a struggling leftist democracy challenged and ultimately defeated by a fascist military coup.

Keep reading... Show less
8

If the idea is that earth, water, fire, air and space constitute the core elements of life, then these five songs might seem as their equivalents to surviving the complications that come from embracing the good and enduring the ugly of the Christmas season.

Memory will never serve us well when it comes to Christmas and all its surrounding complications. Perhaps worse than the financial and familial pressures, the weather and the mad rush to consume and meet expectations, to exceed what happened the year before, are the floods of lists and pithy observations about Christmas music. We know our favorite carols and guilty pleasures ("O Come All Ye Faithful", "Silent Night"), the Vince Guaraldi Trio's music for 1965's A Charlie Brown Christmas that was transcendent then and (for some, anyway) has lost none of its power through the years, and we embrace the rock songs (The Kink's "Father Christmas", Greg Lake's "I Believe In Father Christmas", and The Pretenders' "2000 Miles".) We dismiss the creepy sexual predator nature in any rendition of "Baby, It's Cold Outside", the inanity of Alvin and the Chipmunks, and pop confections like "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus".

Keep reading... Show less
Film

'Foxtrot' Is a 'Catch-22' for Our Time

Giora Bejach in Fox Trot (2017 / IMDB)

Samuel Maoz's philosophical black comedy is a triptych of surrealism laced with insights about warfare and grief that are both timeless and timely.

There's no rule that filmmakers need to have served in the military to make movies about war. Some of the greatest war movies were by directors who never spent a minute in basic (Coppola, Malick). Still, a little knowledge of the terrain helps. A filmmaker who has spent time hugging a rifle on watch understands things the civilian never can, no matter how much research they might do. With a director like Samuel Maoz, who was a tank gunner in the Israeli army and has only made two movies in eight years, his experience is critical.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image