Sometimes you come across an album unexpectedly. You were looking for something else and found what you needed instead. You ask a friend what they’re listening to, expecting one thing, and they suggest something in the opposite direction. Finding Hinako Omori was like this, but once I found her glorious debut album ‘a journey’ I wasn’t letting go. Just over a year later Omori has returned with its follow-up, the wonderfully meditative ‘stillness, softness…’. Everything you came to adore about that debut is here, but the scope has been enlarged.
‘both directions ?’ opens the album with wonky organs. Slow melodies play over, under and through each other creating this cathartic atmosphere. Two thirds of the way through it all dies away and we’re left with this subtle deep drone. Then the melodies start up again. It’s a wonderful way of starting the album, letting us know that this won’t be a jarring experience, but it will be crammed with melodies and rhythms.
‘ember’ is up next. Here we have Omori’s crisp vocals with an 80s synth pop vibe going. As the song builds the vocals become more ethereal and haunting. ‘stalactites’ features cascading motifs. As with ‘both directions ?’ the melodies overlap creating hypnotic patterns. This is the first standout track on the album. It’s mesmeric. On ‘foundation’ there is a beat, similar to a heartbeat, and you realise that this is the first element of percussion on the album. Its feels striking, yet not out of place. Here Omori really delivers some killer lyrics, like “finding a home within to return back to / Where the locks can’t be changed or the key misplaced” and later “who can tell what the future holds? Just know that I hold you dear in my thoughts”. These show that Omori is, hopefully, in a good headspace. Her delivery is hushed, yet clear.
The standout track on the album is ‘a structure’. Pulsing synths are the order of the day. Over this she delivers a spoken word monologue. During this the defining line of the album is delivered – “A library of experiences / Alphabetized and ordered”.
On Hinako Omori’s 2022 debut album, ‘a journey’ it felt like she was finding her feet, working out what she was capable of. ‘a journey’ was a modular synth dream where you were transported to a different place where Mort Garson was the biggest artist in the world. On ‘stillness, softness…’ she has built on that foundation and crafted some serious pop songs interspersed with slightly abstract instrumentals. This combination works incredibly well. Also, the decision to have everything flow, overrun and mix into each other. It gives the album the illusion of being a continuous piece of music, rather than 13 separate pieces. The amount of growth from ‘a journey’ – and Hinako Omori’s early singles – is staggering. She feels like a different artist entirely. Live, Omori is a captivating experience. I had to luck to catch her in a small, sub 100 cap venue and it was spellbinding. I can only imagine how these songs will fit into her new live show.
If you like filagree synths and dimorphous melodies, then this is the album for you. The songs are immaculately crafted. The melodies catchy. Lyrics memorable. It works incredibly well as a soundtrack to train journeys… especially at night. As you look out the window the gloaming gently melts into blackness while the music envelopes you and – despite the constant moving – you are part of something still and soft, yet constantly moving and in flux. Very much like life itself.
Words: Nick Roseblade