Hiromi’s Sonicbloom – Time Control (2007)

I can barely write this post on account of all the dancing I’m doing around the room as I listen to Hiromi’s cool, fresh, unbelievably tight jazz. Whenever I hear her play I get the feeling she’s some sort of unbelievable child prodigy from beyond, come here to reinvent the piano and the way time (musical or otherwise) works. Hence, I thought it appropriate to write about “Time Control” the album on which I feel she really hits the mark, the way a game with a theme is more fun for me than the chaotic concept of “play time”.

Hiromi makes playing like she does look so easy it’s not even fair! I can’t believe the level of technical proficiency she’s at, but more than that, I can’t believe she’s not rubbing it in your face like so many other virtuosos do (I’m looking at you, Yngwie Malmsteen, Dream Theater and so on). The pure joy of playing and playing around with the building blocks of music is transparent in her music with such brightness that it has the effect of instantly improving my mood every time I listen. Blues, jazz, rock, acid-jazz, funk, all mixed up in one huge, bouncing, colorful ball of sonic delight!

I was told of Hiromi’s music by a friend who confessed to having been confronted on his preference with the argument that “it sounds like videogame music”. While I can’t completely deny that, I have to question whether it’s a bad thing. The playfulness there is, as I said, more than obvious. Not since Mahavishnu Orchestra have I heard such ease in delivery and creativity, such smooth musical language and so much fun to be had, both as a player and as a listener. So what if the whole affair is vaguely reminiscent of video-game music? I say, don’t fix it if it ain’t broken, and Hiromi’s music is anything but broken. It’s shifting, alive, chaotic and razor-sharp, but it’s not broken!

Certain music invokes certain types of images. Some dreary, others epic, expansive, other yet dreamlike, and so on. Hiromi’s offering has a very urban, nightly feel to it, a very populated mood. I feel the presence of so many people as I listen to this, it’s like having a conversation with friends. Challenging, witty, smoky, sometimes lubricated by a bit of sophisticated and to the point alcohol. That’s why, instead of laying it on really thick and going for the obvious Peter Doherty joke, I’m going to use a nice site called Drinkify for Hiromi. The way this game goes is you write the name of a musician on the homepage of the site, and it provides you with a suggestion for inebriation as you listen to that particular music. For Hiromi, it turns out, Drinkify suggests simple red wine. I personally don’t agree with this, unless you get one hell of a red wine (I’m biased in this, since I don’t really like red wine). I’d go with either a Zombie or a Godfather. Something classy and complex, chilled and cheeky, all alliterations aside.

It’s funny how brilliance is so often playful. The anecdotes about brilliant scientists are numberless, not to mention the wealth of stories about great writers and musicians. I think Hiromi is no different. At a certain level of thinking things get connected in such weird ways that the creative attempts to capture these knots in perception seem fated for oddity. If her music often seems disjointed and bizarre, it’s because of this unbelievable connection she has with her band and especially her instrument. When you get to use the piano as an artificial voice box, what come out might be slightly freaky, bordering the “uncanny valley”, even if this concept is rarely associated with sound. Hiromi’s music explores regions where logic isn’t always present, but always remembered. Instead of a rule, it turns into a guideline, an afterthought. I enjoy this tremendously and really hope you will too.

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