MIZU 2024
Photo: Tanner Pendleton / NNA Tapes

MIZU Creates an Experimental Masterwork with ‘Forest Scenes’

As a composer and performer, MIZU embraces uncharted territory with her cello not so much in hand but working fully as an extension of her body and voice.

Forest Scenes
NNA Tapes
22 March 2024

The success of any given work of music meant to be ambient or abstract hinges on the beauty of the interactions within it. No piece of a landscape can be viewed the same way in isolation; no sound in a vibrational atmosphere has the same impact alone or in a different space. On her new album Forest Scenes, experimental artist and composer MIZU is keenly aware of this. The layers she builds feel organic, like an ecosystem in that they are not just lovely but alive, each element gorgeous on its own but exquisite in context and motion.

A Juilliard-trained cellist, MIZU leans heavily into the versatility of her instrument throughout Forest Scenes. The opening track, “Enter”, begins with what sounds like the rasp of a bow drawn hard against low strings. She plays with the physical textures of the cello, bouncing and scraping, evoking the opening of a heavy gate against the ground, resonant and raw. From there, she enters a mode of playing that is more melodic but never dull, never too simple to intrigue. In fact, from start to finish, there is nothing overly straightforward about how MIZU’s notes stretch, loop, and curl, nor are the more percussive and synthetic accents of Forest Scenes too predictable. 

Certainly, there are ethereal and pastoral overtones at every turn. They are never uncomplicated. Even at their sweetest, they captivate: loping single “Pump” rocks and splashes, smooth with just a hint of stone and salt breaking up the ripples; “Flutter” features sparkling chimes but also sees MIZU’s cello rise from singing to a lonesome wail, echoing far and wide even while a jungle of squeaks, chirps, and other lush rhythmic embellishments surround it.

As the dulcet is never too dulcet, nor are the shadows ever too cold. “Rinse” begins with foreboding drones, but they spread into something deep, dark, and welcoming. The sheen of cello strings cuts through the velvet synths with a bright light that leads directly into “Pavane”, a track featuring subtly undulating electronics beneath soaring strings. It all wraps together around crisp beats and pizzicati, becoming one of Forest Scene‘s most robust grooves by the end.

Near the end, MIZU leans even more heavily into speed and electronics on a pair of especially driving tracks. In “The Way to Yonder”, MIZU’s cello takes a lyrical run through the titular forests that have been growing over the first half of the record. Techno producer Concrete Husband adds especially jagged touches to glitchy “prphtbrd”, a satisfying and cacophonous cut that feels like a full journey upward. Finally, the album ends with “Realms of Possibility”, ten minutes of melody, rhythm, and resolve that bring Forest Scenes to a sophisticated and euphoric conclusion.

MIZU has discussed Forest Scenes as metaphorically linked to queer spaces, coinciding as it has with her medical transitioning. While nuanced, what she puts into the world here are ultimately joyful interpretations of self and community. As a composer and performer, MIZU embraces uncharted territory with her cello not so much in hand but working fully as an extension of her body and voice. This is stunning work, fully realized in its experimentation, and MIZU is a beacon for artists everywhere looking to build from the ground up.

RATING 9 / 10