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Hitomi Nishiyama: Vibrant
Vibrant is a 2020 solo piano recording from Hitomi Nishiyama, her second solo album after 2013’s Crossing and her 20th overall release. At the time of this recording, her heavy metal project NHORHM had recently finished, and on this album she chose to face the piano quietly and alone, playing nine of her original compositions.
Providing an interesting contrast to the title, the monochrome package design is plain and minimalistic, listing the tracks and credits without any artwork or photos. The disc itself, printed in calming pink, begins to turn up the vibrancy level as you get closer to the recorded music.
The musical direction is also conveyed through titles such as “Empathy”, “Recollection”, “Until the Quiet Comes”, and “Hand in Hand”, implying themes of calmness, maturity, and emotional settings. The music accomplishes that, enhanced by the beautifully recorded piano and the hall’s natural reverb. The spaciousness of sound creates a sense of safety and peace. It’s an intimate album, where she sits down at the piano alone and plays her music directly for the audience, whether it’s one person or a full auditorium.
This album breezes with emotive ballads, light yet kinetic pulses, classical influences, and stimulating traces of European jazz, Chopin, Keith Jarrett, and Bill Evans. In Nishiyama’s trademark style, dramatic tension shifts in and out through waves of notes and chords strung together in colorful harmonic movement. The music gravitates towards a medium tempo with the underlying inertial rhythm that the pianist expertly establishes while she creates melodies out of thin air.
“Empathy” opens the album as a slow, dreamy invitation, and the next two tracks lock in with propelling rhythms: “Vibrant” pushes and pulls with catchy momentum and a lyrical melody, and “Recollection” shines as a layered composition with a strong hook and some resemblance to the music of her NHORHM project.
The dramatic songs “To the North” and “Snow Train” are also ear-catching highlights, the former with its cinematic tension and arpeggiated structures, and the latter which sets up a repeated syncopated vamp as her improvisation floats, twists, and develops curiously.
This is a solo piano album and its sound qualities are defined by the single instrument’s dynamic and sonic range, so one way to listen is to allow the music to drift in and out of consciousness as the tracks change. In that manner, this music can work as a background for work, walks, or relaxation. Paying closer attention also packs an impact, and allows for focusing on the stirring compositions and accomplished playing which evokes each title’s meaning vibrantly.
Vibrant by Hitomi Nishiyama
Hitomi Nishiyama - piano
Released in 2020 on Meantone Records as MT-08.
Japanese names: Hitomi Nishiyama 西山瞳
Audio and Video
Excerpt from "Recollection", the third track on this album: